Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Greenberg Movie Poster Image
Unhealthy relationship is focus of darkly funny adult drama.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even the most cynical of men appears to be redeemable by -- what else? -- love. That’s the good and bad of the film, because he’s downright nasty to the woman, and yet she embraces him, literally and emotionally, over and over again so that it’s almost a masochistic exercise.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Neither of the main characters is particularly stable, but one is compassionate and caring, to a fault. And the other takes a while to see the value in human interaction, but eventually comes around.


A character spews venom out of the blue, so his rage hits hard sometimes. Some expletive-riddled shouting matches.


A man performs oral sex on a woman; the scene is shot from afar, so no body parts are exposed. A woman’s breast can be glimpsed in the shadows briefly. Another exchanges sexual banter with a much older man. A couple has sex on a couch; no genitals shown.


Everything from “damn” to “bitch” to “f--k” -- and plenty of it. Also, a few uses of "God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking; a forty-something man helps host a party for college students, and everyone is pretty much buzzed or sloshed. Some characters snort cocaine at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this darkly comedic drama is not meant for kids. Director Noah Baumbach, as in his other films, stakes his film firmly in messy, sometimes caustic, emotional terrain -- one character has just been discharged from a mental hospital, another gets an abortion -- that may be too mature for most teens. The film's protagonist (Ben Stiller) is a malcontent who rails against injustices small and large -- especially small. Swearing (everything from “asshole” to “dick” to “f--k”) and insults are part of his usual patter. His love interest endures continuous emotional battering, and comes back for more. There’s also a fairly graphic oral sex scene, and a scene where an adult does cocaine with college students.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 April 5, 2014

Ben Stiller plays against type

We all know what comes to mind when one says "I'm gonna watch a Ben Stiller movie:" "Night at the Museum," "Tropic Thunder,"... Continue reading
Adult Written bykhan2705 December 5, 2010

a dark indie dramedy, good character study.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), single, fortyish and at a crossroads in his life, finds himself in Los Angeles, house-sitting for six weeks for his more successf... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

After being released from a psychiatric hospital, New Yorker Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) travels to L.A. to house-sit and dog-watch for his brother (Chris Messina) while he vacations with family in Thailand. Unsure of what to do next, Roger claims he’s “doing nothing on purpose.” He spends his days walking the dog and writing complaints to airlines, pet taxis, Starbucks, and everything else in between. He also catches up with a former bandmate (Rhys Ifans) and ponders how they once were musicians on the brink of fame. Plus, he gets to know -- and pulls back from -- his brother's personal assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig). At 25, Florence is impatient for the world to reveal its master plan to her, and unsure of her next move. She falls for Roger despite how his destructive nature often outmaneuvers his need to connect.

Is it any good?

GREENBERG begins with Gerwig, and from that moment on, the film is hers; she gives Florence a loudly beating heart and a determined stride. This makes her twentysomething ennui and terror compelling and believable. And then there’s Stiller. It’s hard to hug a porcupine, and he makes for a good one. As Roger, he exhibits -- and sheds -- more layers than he ever has in his career. He’s rude, selfish, and myopic, but also bewildered, yearning, and scared. For their performances alone, it’s worth seeing the film.

It’s also freshly conceived, totally humane and gorgeous, too, and may be director Noah Baumbach’s best movie yet. The Squid and the Whale distilled parental self-absorption within a very specific time and place, but this film’s much less claustrophobic; we feel the story instead of observe it. Which may explain why we feel so frustrated in the end, too. Roger and Florence feel like such real people, it’s hard to believe in a happily ever after (or even a while). In the end, Roger’s metamorphosis seems rushed and inauthentic, and Florence’s acceptance of him nearly pathetic. When Roger tells her she has “value,” we long for her to truly believe it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Roger: Why is he the way he is and what does he gain by being that grumpy? What are the costs?

  • What attracts Roger and Florence to each other? Is it a believable coupling? Is it healthy? Is it typical of Hollywood movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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