The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)

  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Cast: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Grace Van Patten, Emma Thompson, Danny Flaherty

Storyline:

An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.

2 reviews

  • “I’m not fitting!” Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler) yells early on in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). He’s talking about trying to park a car, but he may as well be stating the mantra for nearly all of the characters in Noah Baumbach’s latest work. As its title implies, this portrait of family dysfunction is a series of episodic stories that amble along in a generally amiable manner, but is fuelled by currents of anger, bitterness and jealousy.

    Danny is the eldest son of Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a New York sculptor who has achieved a relative amount of success, though he firmly believes he should be more glorified by the art world than he currently is. Harold is in the midst of his fourth marriage to the hippy-dippy Maureen (a delightful Emma Thompson), whom he insists has given up drinking though much evidence suggests the contrary. Danny and his sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) have been living in the shadow of their much favoured younger brother Matthew (Ben Stiller), whom Harold has turned to to help sell the family’s New York apartment as well as his life’s work.

    In contrast to the hobbling and unkempt Danny and Jean, who is so withdrawn she practically blends into the furnishings, Matthew appears shiny and new, tanned by the L.A. sunshine and so constantly busy wheeling and dealing that he barely has time for his wife and child. Matthew may be the most financially successful of his half-siblings, but he is just as weighed down by having to deal with his frustratingly self-absorbed father. Baumbach’s screenplay is a marvel of walled-in dialogue – not only does everyone seem to be talking at or around each other, but they also feel like they’re conducting completely separate conversations.

    A health scare concerning Harold conspires to bring the clan all together, and this is where The Meyerowitz Stories truly finds its groove as the half-siblings find common ground as they grapple with long-held resentments (a comically executed fight between Danny and Matthew also helps release the brothers’ tsuris). Compared to Baumbach’s earlier work, the film is a mildly caustic affair with a smattering of insights that are made less predictable by the cast, all of whom offer sterling performances. Grace Van Patten is luminous as Danny’s daughter, Candice Bergen equally so in her single scene as Matthew’s mother, and Marvel etches a striking portrait of a woman who has spent her life mostly ignored. It should be mentioned that, unlike his previous films, the women here are not as richly written or as well-integrated into the narrative.

    Indeed, Baumbach lavishes his attention on the Meyerowitz men and his leading trio of actors more than rise to the occasion. Hoffman is outstanding as the irascible patriarch and Sandler displays what a very fine actor he can be when his comic crutches are taken away from him. Stiller arguably delivers one of the best performances of his career – the range of emotions that pass through Stiller’s face as Matthew talks with the weakened Harold in the hospital is simply stunning. Hell may be other people, as Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, and family may be the greatest hell of all but as Danny and his daughter sing in the film’s most moving scene, “There’s always you, there’s always me, there’s always us.”

    Click here for more reviews at the etc-etera site

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆½ out of 5)

    GRADE: B+

    THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Noah Baumbach wise depiction of a dysfunctional family is one of the year’s best films.

    SYNOPSIS: A family divided.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 50 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: The dysfunctional family has been a staple in the arts for centuries and this latest tale about these damaged people, Noah Baumbach’s dramedy entitled The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), is insightful and highly enjoyable. It is also one of the year’s best films.

    Meet the family known as Meyerowitz, a Jewish-American clan of elitist misfits. They are upper class liberal New Yorker types who celebrate the cultural benefits of the city while disassociating themselves from each other. Detached from reality, they go about their day more concerned about each other’s flaws and wallowing in guilt and anger. There’s Matthew (Ben Stiller), a successful self-absorbed financial planner who flew the coop years ago, Danny (Adam Sandler), newly divorced and pretty much a failure in life. Once a talented musician, he now dotes on his aging father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), an 80 year old artist still in search of the fame that has eluded him for years. Living on the parameter of their lives is Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), a ordinary woman whom no one acknowledges with much interest. Estranged, they come together to sort out their lives as they organize their father’s art retrospective show.

    The narrative structure of the film divides events into chapters with title cards separating various time frames. Each section delves into each family member and their personal stories, abruptly cutting off dialog in mid-sentence as it transitions to the next part (a brilliant conceit as each character is interrupted in their life lesson with various hindrances). Their stories slowly unfold over time and we learn more from what is not said than what is being spoken.

    But what is being spoken is quite moving and bittersweet. Mr. Baumbach’s screenplay is rich in details and savors the moments with sharp conversation and biting humor. He creates fully realized characters that have a refreshing authenticity and depth. His direction is concise and he paces his film with a steady confidence, never allowing scenes to outstay their due. However, he does tend to meander toward the end of his film as he tries to tie up the loose ends of his plot and forsakes his linear structure of his chapter motif.

    The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) boasts one of the best ensembles of the year. At the forefront is the magnificent Mr. Hoffman. He plays this unlikeable patriarch with an overabundance of wounded pride and ego. (Note his scene at the MOMA exhibit of an artist friend and watch his reactions as he masks his jealousy with uncomfortable asides and the subtlest of aggravated behavior. Masterful acting! As his two son, both Mr. Sandler and Mr. Stiller are excellent. Their sibling rivalry to earn their father’s approval and love becomes heartbreaking as they fight and cajole to earn their personal match point. Ms. Marvel is wonderful too, although a tad underused. She has a wonderful monologue that explains her inner demon most effectively.

    Adding solid support are Grace Van Patten as Eliza, Danny’s well-adjusted and loving artistic daughter, Judd Hirsch as L.J. Shapiro, a more successful rival of Harold, Rebecca Miller as his daughter, and Candice Bergen as Harold’s second (or third) wife. Playing Harold’s present boozy free-spirited spouse is Emma Thompson, who impresses in a delightful comic performance.

    This is one family that deserves a visit. The film is a beautifully written and thought-provoking testament to those whom we literally were born to love (or hate). It is one of the most honest depiction of a family at odds that one could experience…make that, should experience. See The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). You will thoroughly enjoy their company!

    NOTE: One hopes that this film will be given a proper theatrical distribution to qualify it for well-deserved Academy Award consideration.

    Visit my blog at: http://www.dearmoviegoer.com

    ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: jadepietro@rcn.com

Write your review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *