Saturday, December 9, 2017

Movie Review: "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)" (2017)

Director: Noah Baumbach
Year: 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

A look at the lives and the relationships of the people in the Meyerowitz family.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach really likes making slice-of-life character sketches about New York artists and intellectual-types, and "The Meyerowitz Story" falls exactly into that same category. The film stars an ensemble cast including Dustin Hoffman as Harold, the patriarch of the Meyerowitz clan, and Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel, and Ben Stiller as his three children Danny, Jean, and Matthew. Also in the film are Emma Thompson, who plays Harold's most recent wife Maureen, and Grace Van Patten as Danny's daughter Eliza. Harold is a former university professor and sculptor whose self-centered nature has created a strained relationship with his three children who seem to hate him but are always there for him. Harold's wife Maureen has been battling alcoholism, and Eliza is going to film school where she has a habit of making films where she is prominently featured nude and in sexual situations that she regularly sends to the whole family to watch and critique.

These independent films about New York artsy hipsters and intellectuals are hit or miss. Even Noah Baumbach as a director has been hit or miss for us in the past. "The Meyerowitz Stories" is a movie we really enjoyed. The acting is excellent from all of the actors involved. We don't often get to say this, but Adam Sandler gives a fantastic performance, his best since "Punch Drunk Love." Sandler does what he has always done in the past, playing a subdued chucklehead who has many awkward emotional moments and an occasional burst of rage. In the last decade and a half, Sandler has played any number of offensive, stupid characters in the films he's produced. While he's essentially doing the same schtick he's always done, minus the offense and crapping donkeys in the background, the material he has to work with here suits him and allows him to open himself up to the possibility of being a serious actor once more. We welcomed this surprising performance with open arms. Sandler and Stiller get a couple of chances to really go at it with one another as semi-estranged brothers who have virtually nothing in common except for their seeming disdain for their father. And speaking of their father, Dustin Hoffman is also pretty good as the sculptor/professor who felt he never really got his due and was so wrapped up in his work that he often neglected the majority of his children. Hell, the son he didn't neglect still isn't too fond of him either. It is clear that the choices Hoffman's Harold has made have broken his family apart bit by bit to the point of dysfunction. Thomson, Marvel, and Van Patten all do a wonderful job as well.

Full of shortcomings, this family has an interesting dynamic. We get pulled into their offbeat, but ultimately honest representation of a broken family. They may often be at odds, but they still love one another deep down, so long as they can work on their issues. Noah Baumbach has made the film feel more realistic because of its odd choice in editing. Technically speaking, scenes are ended as a character is midway through a sentence. This was off-putting and a little jarring at first, but the longer it continued, the more okay we were with it. In the end, "The Meyerowitz Stories" is a well acted, intimate, dialogue-driven drama with some humorous undertones showcasing a family who has to learn to give and take.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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