The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Review
The Story/The Direction:
The film follows step-siblings Danny (Sandler), Matthew (Stiller), and Jean (Marvel) who have issues with their father, Harold (Hoffman). Harold is a retired college professor whose career as sculptor never panned out. He is cranky and gets on everyone's nerves except his current wife Maureen (Thompson). Danny has come to live with them because he has just separated from his wife and his daughter (Grace Van Patten) is going off to college. Jean lives in Rochester, New York and Matthew lives in Los Angeles, California. But when a health problem with Harold comes up, these step-siblings must ignore their dislike towards their father and each other to ensure Harold gets the best care. Baumbach's script takes this typical story about a bad father with children that both hate him and love him for his faults and is able to hold the viewer's interest throughout the film. Through the dialogue, he is able to mix tragedy with comedy fairly effectively. While this plot generally has been done before, it still will feel fresh and authentic due to its characters.
All of the performances in this film are fantastic. Hoffman's is great as the art snob and bad father but the standouts are Sandler and Stiller. Sandler has been mostly known for his comedies for better or worse but recently it is the latter. However, he has films that make him act well such as Reign Over Me, Funny People, and Punch Drunk Love. This film is one of those as well and while it has a good amount of familiar Sandler-isms such as being a die-hard sports fan and his made up songs that his character writes, it is not too much of that and the film is enjoyable. What makes this film different is that these things are used to support a damaged character. His father has ignored him for most of his life even while being the oldest and giving Harold a loving granddaughter that is following in her grandfather's footsteps of artistry though in a "very un-nonpornographic" way. Danny is still looked as a somewhat failure in his father's eyes where the more successful and loved son, Matthew, lives across the country and his family just as distant from him as Matthew is from Harold. Stiller plays this character extremely well. His wife may or may not be cheating on him and he thinks about leaving her and their son. He is almost an exact copy of his father but more successful, financially speaking. Danny feels that Matthew abandoned their family though dysfunctional as it may be when he moved away. He and Danny get in a scuffle on what it means to be a good family man and its a very strong scene.
While this film succeeds on its male characters, the female characters are lacking in background. This is not to say they were portrayed badly and the Meyerowitz women are very interesting characters that just aren't delved into as much as Harold, Danny, and Matthew. Jean has a story where she was molested but nothing really comes from it aside from an attempt by her brothers to avenge her. In addition, Thompson as Maureen is great but her character is a side character that can barely stand even when she states, "she's sober." There's nothing really interesting aside from being good with numbers when it matters. Another character development that really goes nowhere is Patten's Eliza, Danny's daughter. When she and Sandler are on screen, you feel their connection and she honestly feels more mature than her father and potentially the rest of the adults. Her character provides some parallels with Harold but her contributions to the art world seem very odd and out of place, though worth a chuckle initially. There are also some weird cuts to end certain story points that were a little odd and abrupt.
Going to the theatre to see big films can be a good time but it's nice to step back from these blockbusters to watch a film such as this. The characters are well acted and the story feels real, though odd at times. Sandler and Stiller are fantastic that make this film about a clearly dysfunctional family worth and could be one of Netflix's best original films. It is a really great but somewhat flawed film that is worth your time at least once or twice.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
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