Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) ***1/2 (2017)

Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller star as half brothers in Noah Baumbach's latest family drama that's available on Netflix. Dustin Hoffman plays the family patriarch Harold, an artist in his twilight years constantly worried about his legacy. Danny (Sandler) is a former house husband who must figure out his next step as his daughter Eliza prepares to leave for college. Matthew (Stiller) is a successful businessman still seeking the approval of Harold. 

A film made in segments, with each chapter focusing on a specific character, gives the film a literary quality. As usual Baumbach's writing is superb, right up there with his previous films The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg. Sandler displays his range and great potential when given a good script. His scenes with Stiller are especially good. Hoffman gives one of his best performances in years.

The Meyerowtiz Stories features a stellar supporting cast. Emma Thompson as Harold's boozy wife, Elizabeth Marvel as the younger sister, and especially Grace Van Patten as Eliza. Adam Driver, Judd Hirsch, and Candice Bergin also appear.

The film also has the feel of a J.D. Salinger story with all the terse dialogue and mundane situations that take a surreal turn. Saul Bellow and John Updike also come to mind.  

Eliza's the best hope for the family's future, a well adjusted millennial who somehow navigates the emotional minefields of the past.

Baumbach dares to create unlikable characters and allows you to appreciate their character flaws. He makes them relatable. Even though Danny and Matthew have taken different paths in life they still care about each other. Despite all of Harold's bitter sarcasm there's something moving about his love for the Mets. A wonderful character portrait. 

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