Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Flicked Off: 'Greenberg,' or, Mean is the New Sad

GREENBERGNow that he is tasked for real with directing the adaptation of The Emperor's Children, we must take Noah Baumbach for serious again. And so….

Natasha Vargas-Cooper: What was it like for you to go on a Bromotional journey into Ben Stiller's Acting cred? How was it spending 2 hours with a character you HATED?

Julie Klausner: It was better than dating one! But I did like the movie.

Natasha: Have you dated a G-berg?

Julie: YES!!

Natasha: Ok, Explain what a G-man is.

Julie: Somebody who thinks honesty is not only a value, but THE MOST IMPORTANT VALUE. But honesty should be a given! There's no nun named after honesty.

Natasha: I have met this kind!

Julie: Just, like, a guy, who's like "I'm damaged and awful, but I'm being honest about it so here I go! Get your gauze out, ladiezzz!!!" And then you just bleed from the eyes and the heart and the hands.

Natasha: I'm wet right now!

Julie: Wet with blood and gore!

Natasha: And so is that what you saw in G-berg? That kind of awkward/sadman archetype?

Julie: Angrier, more entitled, arroganter. Arrogreenberg.

Natasha: Why did you like this movie that I hated!?

Julie: Did you really walk out?

Natasha: Yup.

Julie: Was it because you were in a band like G-berg called MAGIC MARKER and it hit too close to home?

Natasha: It's likely I may have made out with all The Sharpies.

Julie: Oh, that shit doesn't wash out.

Natasha: OMG.

Julie: Okay, here's why I liked it. I thought the girl was a real girl. I believed Florence was a real girl. Not like Lars and the Real Girl, pervo.

Natasha: *zips up pants*

Julie: Whereas Noah Baum-Baum had that Squid & Whale Sashimi shit show when Laura Linney had nothing to do–and that's not fair to give Laura Linney nothing to do! At least give her cancer!

Natasha: (I liked that one!)

Julie: You did??? It was, to me, like a little boy who'd never known where his mom was coming from, and then grew up to make a movie about her, and still had no idea where she was coming from. At least in G-berg you know 20-something chicks like Florence exist.

Julie: Can we discuss Florence?

Natasha: Yes. Please. Because I disliked her.

Julie: I liked her, but I wanted more scenes of Flo crying blood out of her eyes. Because that's what happens when you go Greenberg.

Natasha: Tell me about the bleed.

Julie: Oh, the pain!!! Hurt people hurt Florence! You catch a case of the crazy.

Natasha: She absorbed too much of his angst without giving enough back?

Julie: Yeah. We saw her pissed, and we saw her in neutral, and we saw her in drive, we saw her listening to Steve Miller driving. I wanted her on the phone with Gina, her bro-ette and WAILING OUT HER SOCKETS ABOUT that damaged Jew fuck, that arrogant prick, that tiny-dicked psycho.


Julie: Okay, go!

Natasha: One night after Greensie makes Florence feel like absolute shit, she calls up the bestie who says, "UM THIS BRO IS NO GOOD." Florence says, "I THINK HE'S JUST VULNERABLE."

Natasha: That's something ladies of my cohort grew up watching cause all the Sad Men Born of the 1970s made movies and wrote books about it.

Julie: Right– and how he's brave for doing nothing?

Natasha: Exactly. I've been spoonfed since I was old enough to get finger blasted that I should love these men because they're spesh because they feel so much. And while I don't necessarily disagree, I'm simply exhausted from that narrative.

Julie: Well, I think Baumbro calls bullshit on him, for what it's worth.

Natasha: Maybe I should have stayed for that part!

Julie: Well, you know who is vulnerable more than Greenbro? THE DOG Greenberg has to take care of. The way they used that dog made me feel the way one you do when you see circus elephants parading down the streets of New York.

Natasha: Talk to me about the dog.

Julie: Well, as you know, my heart is made out of dogs.

Natasha: I've heard rumors.

Julie: And secondly, people should know: the German Shephard was a breed the Nazis designed, to make sure the Jews like Roger Greenberg were eliminated in a customary manner.

Natasha: So is the sick Nazi dog which G-berg starts to nurse supposed to be a wink-wink at the audience that he can be a good man?

Julie: No, it's another cringe device.


Julie: It's the black guy walking towards Larry David so you can be like, "uh oh."

Natasha: I do say that!

Julie: I just realized: I am more protective of the dog than of the girl. My head is exploding.


Julie: I may be contradicting myself, but I think the reason why this movie was good, was because Noah Baumbro was so honest. Like, you know how the Greenbros think honesty is more important than not being the worst? Maybe that's not the case when you're making a movie about the Greenbergs of this world.

Natasha: Is Greenberg self-aware? And aren't men/people who say "I was just being honest" mean ‘I couldn't take the mental / emotional energy to think of your feelings?'

Julie: Yes. And I do think he's self aware, but in the way that a narcissist/sociopath is self aware–which is to say, he sees himself in a totally skewed, myopic, alternatingly grandiose and crushingly gloom and doom kind of way

Natasha: YES.

Julie: I know this type in and out. Remember when he dove into Florence's puss after having two sips of beer at her apartment? That was so awkward but so true. Like Budweiser True. WASSSSUPPPPPP.

Natasha: OMG, that was real.



Natasha: But could a bro like Greenberg bring the drama a twenty-something would want? I thought all he could bring is a puss dive, a mix CD and neurosis and pouting? And isn't Baumbro saying, sorry ladies, this man still feels and you should love himmmmm?

Julie: I think Noah hates him too. And I do think Noah lets him grow-ah, a little-a bitt-a.

Natasha: Okay, would a woman in her 30s put up with Sadbroskies?

Julie: You know what? I have a very sad answer: If he was mean enough.

Natasha: Oh, dear.

Julie: Mean is the new sad. It's not just ‘Weep Weep. I'm fat around your couch. Smokkkeeee pottttt. Fart.'

Natasha: Ah!

Julie: It's like, "Hi! I'm calling you! Because I'm crazy!"

Julie: "Let's go out! I can't take care of this dog but I'm going to try! I can't love you! I'm interesting, right?"

Natasha: I'M SHAKING.

Julie: You know how in my book, I talk about that crazy guy who thought he was sensitive, but his skin was only thin in one direction?


Natasha: You mean the text that's available on Amazon right now!?

Julie: For only $10.82??

Natasha: What a deal!

Julie: So that was my Greenberg, totally. But you know what I mean? Sensitive guys who are like "I FEEL THINGS INTENSELY!" But they can't feel your pain because it doesn't exist to them.

Natasha: I do! That's part of the reason I walked out. Not from rage but from tedium of being through all this shit with damaged men IRL. What pushed my ass out of the seat was when he drives her to get her abortion.

Natasha: I was just like, ACH, "aborsh as the deus ex machina for compassion? No thanks!" I'm done.

Julie: Yeah, so he can mensch out in a way that isn't scary. Because once she needs an aborsh, she's wounded too, like him! It's also like Greenbro being, "I'll show you how pro-choice I am!"

Julie: "I'll donate to Haiti when you're done."

Natasha: "Textin Haiti from your aborsh, want the children who lived to have shoes."

Natasha: Does she stay with him??

Julie: Probably not, he'll go back to Bushwick.

Natasha: That's where they all belong! Ok, so what's the lesson in G-berg???

Julie: Mean is the new sad. Damaged men are the new man-babies. "Hurt people hurt people" but also "Hurt people make movies."

Julie: Whether crazy wears sad or crazy wears angry.

Julie: Also, don't fuck crazy.

Julie: And don't let crazy dive into your puss!

Julie: Because he can't take care of dogs.

Julie: And dogs are GOD'S CREATURES.


Julie Klausner and Natasha Vargas-Cooper are experts.

79 Comments / Post A Comment

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I may be retaining the wrong message here, but "mean is the new sad" sounds like encouraging news.

saythatscool (#101)

I'm disappointed this didn't end in a tickle fight and/or you two kissing.

lululemming (#409)

When are you ladies coming over to braid my hair and teach me how to roll joints? Because, now!

Also, is Ben Stiller the leading bro in this? Isn't he kinda old to be playing a character from "Singles"?

NicFit (#616)

I now understand women even less.

HiredGoons (#603)

Am I the only one who couldn't get past page 60 of 'Emperor's Children' and frankly couldn't tell most of the characters apart*?

*(may have been on purpose?)

Also, I will not see this, as I find Ben Stiller insufferable.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Ben Stiller has not been funny or insightful since he went Joe Piscopo.

lululemming (#409)

Cosign on Ben Stiller being godawful.

No cosign on Emperor's Children. Was busy watching monkey mystery theatre.

HiredGoons (#603)

To be fair, I bought the book in an airport.

Which probably says something.

About me.

lululemming (#409)

Not judging Claire Messud, who is decent.

It's just that I watched 15 minutes of the fuckawfular "Reign Over Me" by Mike Binder, worst filmmaker in the world, and then and there declared a moratorium on fictionalized accounts of 9/11. It's one of those rare instances where I feel like the truth is truer than the fiction it generates.

Kevin (#2,559)

HG, I too couldn't slog my way through that book. What dreadful dreck.

I really disliked TEC — the characters were all cut from similar, unpleasant cloth, and yeah, tough to tell apart.

My Book Club (yes, in a book club) split almost 50/50 down the middle on Emperor's Children. And no one was on the fence. FWIW, I was in favor.

I think the characters (having "no clothes") were sort of deliberately flat. And I also thought the 9/11 bit was sufficiently underplayed that it didn't bug me.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Maura: Like a daytime-soap version of Bret Easton Ellis.

Jryhzkidz (#627)

TEC was MehOK, yes the characters were a drag. Most interesting to me was the way the prose style was an exact ripoff of Richard Yates's. Really, check it against Revolutionary Road for the exact same cadences. And that was the best thing about it. As for Mopeburg, gimmeabreak. After 'Squid' I thought "Nice writing but wow bro really hates his dad". After 'Margot' I was like "Wow he really hates his mom too". Now I'm supposed to send 12 bucks to view his narcissistic self hatred? . I'd rather save the money and go look in the mirror. Or go on a date.

barnhouse (#1,326)

I will always love him for Zoolander. Also Claire Messud is married to James Wood, I read? Which, whoa.

@HiredGoons: If only it was as compelling as "Days Of Our Lives."

I'm like the Jacques Cousteau of puss diving.

*zips up pants*

kneetoe (#1,881)

That's the other end of the spectrum from the Greg Louganis of puss diving, I suppose.

I was going to say something about Louganis, but then it was such a conundrum in terms of puss diving that the puss-time continuum imploded. I like the Cousteau analogy better anyway, because he lived in that shit.

"I swim in it, you gon' think you slept with Michael Phelps" (c) Fabolous

kneetoe (#1,881)

Yes, I was pretty confused by my own comment, but went with it nonetheless. Yours either worked or didn't work for CHL, depending on when pants were zipped.

Worked. ; )

KarenUhOh (#19)

The Devil Wears Thin

Abe Sauer (#148)

I for one cannot wait until Balk and I get to do this to Eat, Pray, Love.

Superb, can't wait.

Serialize it? Too much for one post to contain.

barnhouse (#1,326)


Bittersweet (#765)

Counting the days.

Once again, I've watched two ladies argue about a dude I hate. Story of my life.

lululemming (#409)

Sit over in the corner with NicFit, you.

Well, I guess they weren't so much "arguing" as they were "agreeing." LADIES I CAN DO BETTER

HiredGoons (#603)

I imagine NVC as constantly wiping a delicate trail of blood from her chin, and I find it slightly arousing.

mrschem (#1,757)


poisonville (#776)

Being a mensch is driving a woman you schtupped to get an abortion? That's setting the mensch bar pretty low.

the teeth (#380)

I really wish I could drive you, but I've got this thing. But here's bus fare?

lululemming (#409)

Abortion: 9/10 moviegoers agree the subject makes them "feel things."

deepomega (#1,720)

"Listen, I have to get to a meeting, so I just left a printout of Google Maps walking directions on the kitchen table."

Adouble (#1,300)

So wait, was this conversation "Jew hating" or "Jewish self-hating"?

wb (#2,214)

I really did love Kicking and Screaming though.

City_Dater (#2,500)

I do too!
But see, watching guys who are still young and cute and might grow up and out of their silly shit is TOTALLY different from watching guys who are played by Ben Stiller wallow in shit they should have dropped twenty years earlier.

Which is to say, I am on Team No More Honesty That is Really Just Selfish Rudeness.

Bittersweet (#765)

Exactly, City Dater! What's adorable in a 22-year-old is just fucking pathetic twenty years down the road.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Not so much "adorable" as "understandable." A 22 year old who refuses to acknowledge that other people aren't holograms who bleep out of sight when he isn't around isn't terrifying; a 45 year old erupting in fury or withdrawing into sullenness whenever he is called upon to consider the feelings of others is a horrorshow.

Bittersweet (#765)

You're right…whenever I think of that movie, though, I automatically think of adorable Otis and his pajama tops and his mascara. Which, come to think of it, would also be fairly horrifying twenty years down the road.

wb (#2,214)

So then: make movies about YOUNG upper-middle class white people and their emotional problem, Noah Baumbach! But wait–that sounds like Emperor's Children, which I have a feeling is going to make people loathe its characters and the director just as much as the majority of his films have. Maybe he should just write screenplays for stop-motion animation films?

jetztinberlin (#392)

I have never heard of nor have any desire to see this movie, but this review was every kind of awesome all at once and so clearly far more significant than the dumb movie, so hurrah thank you ladies.
Abe, you better not be kidding about that Eat, Pray, Love review, because I will put the posting date for it in my calendar RIGHT NOW!

Whenever I read something written by Natasha Vargas Cooper, I go from being a sad bro to being a mad bro. I could go on about this but it wouldn't be productive and anyway it's lunchtime and right now more than anything I'm a hungry bro. H8 U L8R, NVC!

LondonLee (#922)

"don't fuck crazy"

I've fucked a few crazy loopy intense ladies in my time and it's usually amazing, so I feel this should be amended to "fuck crazy but keep your eye on the knives and be ready to bail any second"

barnhouse (#1,326)

They mean if you are a straight girl though, I think.

Fredrick (#268)

Yeah, when I found myself disagreeing or asking "why do feelings matter again?", I had to remind myself this was about 'straight girls'.

katiebakes (#32)


Baumbach, the Oscar-nominated writer of "The Squid and the Whale," has also adapted Curtis Sittenfeld's "Prep" for Paramount.


HiredGoons (#603)

He seems to have cornered the market on precocious/sad coastal pseudo-intellectuals.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Oh no. What a godawful book.

HiredGoons (#603)

Is that Gabi thing for real!?

I don't think so? BUT I CAN'T TELL ANYMORE!

Jryhzkidz (#627)

It is real ( and I think it's a good film, although full disclosure, my friends made it) Just saying, Baumbach hasn't cornered the market.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

He is married to.. oh never mind.

doubled277 (#2,783)

I feel like I'm a g-man (haven't seen movie tho!)… what do I do, women????

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes.

doubled277 (#2,783)

since I had to google this, I'm assuming I'm not a g-man. Never mind, crisis averted!

libmas (#231)

"Textin Haiti from your aborsh, want the children who lived to have shoes."

Wow. Not sure how the film is going to get up off the canvas after that one.

Jryhzkidz (#627)

Yeah that killer line strikes me as likely a lot funnier and sharper than anything in the movie.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

The thing I don't understand about this film is: This is being hyped as an opportunity for Ben Stiller to show his "chops" as a dramatic actor? Who asked for that? Does anyone care about his "serious" acting ability? He's not that funny; but keeps company with funny people.

Also what was the plot of the "Royal Greenbergs" again? All I remember is that trailer with a rodent and Ramones songs on a small stage with a velvet curtain.

They were thinking of calling it "The Cable Greenberg" or "Punch Drunk Greenberg."

#56 (#56)

"But you know what I mean? Sensitive guys who are like 'I FEEL THINGS INTENSELY!' But they can't feel your pain because it doesn't exist to them."

Oh my, do I ever know this type. . .

kittenplan (#339)

Oh, agreed! Agreed! The strange thing is that I had absolutely no desire to see this movie until I read this exchange, and now I MUST SEE IT IMMEDIATELY because I feel as though it has valuable information for my life.

Also will confess that if I come away from the movie feeling like Noah Baumbach dislikes his character as much as I suspect I am going to, it will be deeply satisfying.

The minute I saw the trailer I had such a rush of hatred course through my veins…and yet now, I feel I must go!

I've never wanted to see a movie I'm so sure I will despise this badly. WEIRD.

michaelduff (#1,930)

So great to finally have this identified as a TYPE. I thought this kind of evil was unique to my dad and a few people I grew up with, but it really is a whole class of men.

The sickest thing is that it works. There's a class of nurturing, self-hating women out there who will waste their lives trying to reach out and heal them.

Compassion, affection, love — pour it into them for years and it just goes down the well. Pour your heart out, throw your arms around them, give them a perfect birthday and they won't even change facial expression before they sink back into the gloom.

Women, please don't do this to yourselves.

And men, if you catch yourself being this way, even for a second, punch yourself in the balls and STOP.

Sorry, way too personal for an Awl thread, but we need to identify these bastards, and we need to laugh at them, so maybe the next generation of victims can be saved.

nicole (#2,443)

for realz!

I would far rather watch a loop of G-bro's Between Two Ferns for 2 hours.

Gimley Farb (#4,132)

The screenplay was co-written by Jennifer Jason Leigh and reminded me somewhat of The Anniversary Party.

joshc (#442)

AGREED. The whole pool party, sad people, and dog sensitivity was very familiar. I was going to bring it up with friends after the flick, but realized that I was probably the only person who even remembered (or saw) that movie.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

TAP is one of the ten funniest movies ever to star Alan Cumming.

Yes! I thought of that too but maybe it's that Alan Cuming is charismatic and there wasn't nearly as much mumbling so I enjoyed that one more. But the aborsh climax was similar!

greymatter (#3,181)

while we're on the subject (which we seem to be) – could someone please parse this for me "Ms. Gerwig, most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress of her generation, a judgment I offer with all sincerity and a measure of ambivalence."

balsa_wood (#465)

So, what I'm getting from this is, Natasha didn't really watch the movie and Julie did. And both Julie and Natasha find the movie worth discussing only in relation to their fascinating dating lives.

It's like they're both Greenberg…

john smith (#245,014)

It's just that I watched 15 minutes of the fuckawfular "Reign Over Me" by Mike Binder, worst filmmaker in the world, and then and there declared a moratorium on fictionalized accounts of 9/11.

aklsjdf (#245,044)

That he is tasked for real with directing the adaptation of The Emperor's Children, we must take Noah Baumbach for serious again. And so thanks..

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