Playing a woman betrayed in the Best Picture Oscar nominee "The Descendants" -- and now the exasperated wife of a jerk in a crumbling marriage in the new comedy "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" -- Greer, thankfully, has seen much better days in the romance department off screen.
"When I was making both of those movies, I had just happened to fall in love with this man who recently became my husband," Greer giddily told me in a recent interview. "It's funny to watch these movies now to think how happy I was making them."
While the big-screen scenarios haven't been the most favorable for Greer of late, the acclaimed comedy actress, 36, said she loves exploring realistic film projects. That's why she feels blessed to have gotten the opportunity to work with brother filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass with "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," because the brothers have proven with such previous films as "Puffy Chair" and "Cyrus" how they can tell extraordinary stories about ordinary life.
Better yet, she said, the writing-directing duo lets their performers get closer to the filmmaking process by encouraging them to improvise dialogue in their scenes.
"It was really fun, and it gave me such confidence that those guys had such faith in us," Greer said. "They made this movie the way they wanted to make it, and they chose us to help them tell the story. It was just really such a huge compliment and endorsement of our abilities."
Opening in theaters Friday, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" stars Jason Segel as the title character -- an overgrown stoner living in his mom Sharon's (Susan Sarandon) basement who is looking for a sign in the universe to determine his path. Unbeknownst to him, it may be Sharon's simple errand for him -- to buy wood glue -- that may open the door to a larger destiny. Helms plays Jeff's estranged brother, Pat, and Greer plays Linda, Pat's not-so-happily wedded wife.
One of the side benefits of working on a film like "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is that it gives its performers a chance to wax poetic about themes like destiny and how it applies to their own lives. For Greer, it gave her a chance to revisit fateful decisions that she's made and the directions they've taken her.
"I feel like everything does happen for a reason, and I can totally look back on my career and the decisions I've made and how it sort of worked itself out," Greer observed. "There were things that I wanted but didn't get them. I don't know if thinking, 'That's how things were meant to be' is like using it for an excuse to not be heartbroken sometimes, but I like thinking that it's all a master plan."
One bit of such destiny that fell in her favor, Greer said, was a gig she had with her "Descendants" co-star George Clooney, whom she first worked 13 years ago on the war-themed action dramedy "Three Kings." She appeared at the beginning of the film in a memorable scene as a television reporter caught with her pants down, quite literally, with Desert Storm soldier Archie Gates (Clooney).
"It's funny how things come back around. 'Three Kings' was such an amazing opportunity and was a very funny destiny-type of situation with how I got that part," Greer recalled. "There was another actress who was supposed to play my role and she literally dropped out at the last second. They literally called me on a Friday evening and flew me to Arizona to audition for (director) David Russell and he cast me on the spot. I started work that day. It was like, 'Whoa!'"