Sunday, October 15, 2017

Now on Netflix: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) - Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach; Starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Grace Van Patten, Elizabeth Marvel, Judd Hirsch, Rebecca Miller.

By Kenny Howell

The job of depicting horrible people is always tricky.

There is a fine line you need to walk where they aren't too terrible, and entertaining (or funny) enough to make you forget.

Noah Baumbach (While We're Young) has walked that line before, and for the most part has had success. Here he jumps into the Meyerowitz family, the patriarch being an artist and academic named Harold played by Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate). He has never quite achieved the success that he thinks he deserved, and in his old age has become bitter and combative, which his family has to deal with when they actually visit him.

The first son we meet is Danny (a terrific Adam Sandler), a recent single dad to a daughter (Grace Van Patten) about to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and head to art school. He goes to visit his dad and finds that they are possibly selling their apartment in the city, which he doesn't handle well, even though he never grew up there.

We then move on to another son named Matthew (also terrific Ben Stiller), a high powered finance exec that has trouble connecting with his dad as well. He feels that he has never accepted him, especially his choice in career which has made him a lot of money, something Harold acts like he objects to, but secretly is unhappy he never achieved it through his art.

There is also another child, a delightfully oddball daughter named Jean (Elizabeth Marvel). Their already strained relationship is put to a further test when an injury puts Harold's life in danger. The movie is told in a short story style, with title cards separating different segments.

Baumbach's work, especially this one, owes a lot to not only Woody Allen, but one of his contemporaries in Wes Anderson, as this seems really similar in ways to The Royal Tenenbaums. The Meyerowitz Stories leans more to the Allen side, as it as a bit more grounded. However, that means a lot of self-absorbed dialogue, pontificating on artistic endeavors (Danny's daughter's films are awful, but they pretend they are not) and the such. Baumbach has always had a knack for letting that go down easy, mostly because he is just a funny, smart guy, and that is definitely true here. The dynamics between each child and Harold is unique, and well told. Plus, he has collected a great group of actors here, all at the top of their game. Hoffman, Sandler, Stiller, Emma Thompson as Harold drunk current wife, and Marvel all perfectly get that tone Baumbach goes for, and make this a very pleasant surprise on the Netflix release schedule.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***1/2

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