Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 13/20)
Plot: The titular New York carpenter ends stint at a mental institution and agrees to house sit for his brother in Los Angeles while the brother's away. He reconnects with a few old friends and an ex-lover and meets his brother's family's assistant, a 20-something year old named Florence. Life, however, is not very easy for Roger Greenberg. He works on a doghouse for his brother's family and tries very hard to know nothing else at all.
I've always liked Ben Stiller even without really liking any movies that he's really known for. Maybe it's because I know he's eventually going to get older and look like Jerry Stiller, a guy whose appearance alone can make me laugh. Then, Future Ben Stiller makes me laugh and leaves me with a good overall impression of Present Ben Stiller. I also really like Noah Baumbach and his particular brand of understated comedies that emphasize all those little awkward characteristics that might not make much of a real difference but that help define who we are as humans. The oft-kitschy soundtrack (LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy), the philosophical focus on minutia, and the life-damaged protagonist that Stiller plays recalled Paul Thomas Anderson's hugely-underrated Punch-Drunk Love. Some will gripe that the characters, especially Stiller's, just don't communicate or respond to life like real people would, but I like how written it all is. While we can definitely understand the rather serious problems Roger's got, they're treated comically, and Stiller's performance helps make a very unlikable fellow somebody who we want to spend the time with and root for. Baumbach's self-referential with his screenplay, bringing back dialogue snippets that seemed pointless, and he's really good here with revealing just enough. I like these sort of in medias res character studies where you aren't given a complete portrait of the character's past (or even future, by the end of the movie) but are given enough to put some pieces together on your own. And it's all pretty funny and, ultimately, even a little touching, too. This isn't the type of comedic character study that will appeal to everybody, but I wouldn't imagine fans of Noah Baumbach would have any reason to be disappointed.
I've also decided to start wearing my hair like Ben Stilller's Greenberg does. I think that's the type of hair I should have.