This film has the best soundtrack so far of any movie in the first half of 2010. James Murphy composed the music and songs. Murphy typically goes by the moniker of LCD Soundsystem. His work has been described as "Bowie-esque" and "dance-rock for grown-ups" as well as having lyrics that "brim with grouchy wit." Murphy was therefore the perfect musician for this movie.
Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this piece about a contractor named Roger Greenberg. Greenberg is from New York. He comes to Los Angeles to stay at his brother's house, while his brother spends six weeks in Vietnam on vacation. Baumbach's previous films include The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Margot at the Wedding (2007).
Despite the fact that neither of those two films had Ben Stiller or really any comedian as the central character, both those films were remarkably funnier than this effort. In his two previous, Baumbach portrayed unlikeable intellectuals who are in many ways redeemed through their children. Here, Greenberg has no children, so there's really no one to redeem him.
Greenberg is a horrible brother, a horrible lover, and a horrible friend. His horrible behavior mostly stems from a bad decision he made when he was younger that still haunts him. The way that Baumbach allows it to play is puzzling because Greenberg being the consummate New Yorker doesn't embrace L.A. life. He doesn't drive. He doesn't swim. He doesn't do much of anything but write letters of complaint.
Greenberg gets involved with his brother's young assistant, who is perhaps not a good match for him. Their relationship is mostly awkward. I didn't necessarily understand why they were together.
Stiller does a good job as a clearly bitter man who is living a life that he never wanted. Besides two revealing conversations, Baumbach never gives us too much about the musical past that Greenberg possesses. We see Greenberg hand over a mix CD that he made, but we get no other sense of Greenberg's musical ability. There's a disconnect there, especially in a film with such great original music from LCD Soundsystem.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some strong sexuality, drug use and language.