Noah Baumbach is an indie writer-director known for wry, literate, darkly comic arthouse meditations on Gen-X angst like Kicking & Screaming and The Squid and the Whale. Ben Stiller is … Ben Stiller. What do you get when you put the two together? Judging from the just-released trailer for Greenberg, which opens in March, you get Stiller as a 40-something slacker who’s at loose ends in his life and busying himself building a doghouse, writing angry letters to Starbucks, and fumbling into a romance with another lost soul (Greta Gerwig). We haven’t seen Stiller go for this kind of minor-key, emotionally vulnerable performance since The Royal Tenenbaums—and while it’s tough to get a clear read on Greenberg from the trailer, the results look pretty intriguing to me in a laughing-quietly-to-yourself kind of way. It would be easy to write this off as just the latest case of a giant comedy star trying to burnish his artistic cred by doing a movie aimed at hoodie-wearing hipsters and NPR listeners, like Jim Carrey did so well with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then again, Stiller made his directorial debut 15 years ago with his own darkly comic meditation on Gen-X angst, Reality Bites, so you could argue the guy is actually going back to his roots.
Watch the trailer at Apple and tell us what you think. Does the idea of Stiller as a scruffy malcontent who just wants to “do nothing” do anything for you? Or is Greenberg just an odd detour on the way to Little Fockers?