Release Date: October 13, 2017
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: Not Rated (as of post time)
Studio: Netflix / IAC Films
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Sandler; Dustin Hoffman; Ben Stiller; Elizabeth Marvel; Emma Thompson; Grace Van Patten; Judd Hirsch; Rebecca Miller
I love this movie! The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a fresh and natural spin on the “fractured family uniting in an hour of need” trope. Director Noah Baumbach’s (Margot at the Wedding) film is a nice change of pace from the typically obnoxious dysfunctional family drama so popular around this time of year.
Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel are the Meyerowitz siblings (Danny, Matthew and Jean, respectively). Danny, recently separated from his wife, has come back to live at the family brownstone in NYC in order to get his life together; Matthew is a hotshot LA money manager; and Jean is your run-of-the-mill corporate drone. Their father, Harry (Dustin Hoffman) was at one point a popular sculptor whose days as a member of the NYC art elite are well behind him. The children come together and reluctantly confront their own lingering family issues when Harry is suddenly taken ill. This sounds like the plot of one of the countless “family comes together in time of crisis” movies (August: Osage County, for example), yet Baumbach somehow manages to take the melodrama inherent in the story and shape it into an enormously entertaining movie.
For starters, Baumbach’s script is tight as a drum; every word essential, not a syllable is wasted. At times, the screenplay recalls early Woody Allen (minus the neuroses) in its composition. Individual scenes are edited together so methodically, sometimes in the middle of sentences, that the result is a film which moves at a much faster clip than it has any right to. Baumbach arranges his story in chapters, helping to break up the narrative and allowing it to refrain from playing like a filmed stage play (one of my biggest grievances with some “family drama” movies).
The performances all around are unaffected, relatable, and worthy of the accolades sure to come forth. I have never been the biggest Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller fan, but both actors surprised the hell out of me in Meyerowitz. I genuinely bought the proposition that these two men were estranged brothers struggling to rebuild a broken history. Sandler has several beautiful and heartwarming scenes with his college-bound daughter, Eliza (wonderfully realized by Grace Van Patten), which will resonate with any father in the audience. Dustin Hoffman does some of his best work in years as a man coming to terms with his mortality, both professionally and personally, and Emma Thompson is inspired as his perennially loaded, hippy wife. Judd Hirsch pops up in a nicely gauged supporting turn as Harry’s contemporary who seems to have navigated the art world waters a bit more successfully than Harry.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a wonderfully poignant slice of human drama, brought to life by a sensational cast and a skilled writer/director all working at the peak of their form.