Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring Adam Sandler, Grace Van Patten, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver
Netflix Film Review by Chris Olson
A jazzy take on daddy issues in this Netflix original film starring Dustin Hoffman as the head of the Meyerowitz household, and said daddy causing all the issues, who brings together his jaded and disconnected offspring in the build-up to an important event in his artistic career. The family tree is partially made up of Adam Sandler as Danny, a limping failed musician, and son of Harold (Hoffman), Danny is also the tender father to Eliza (Grace Van Patten), a “skilled filmmaker”, whose output of not un-pornographic material is proof of the creative genes that run in this family. Elizabeth Marvel plays Harold’s daughter Jean, a subdued and largely morose character whose brittle edge is brilliantly funny throughout the movie. Then there is Ben Stiller as the financially successful Matthew, apple of his dad’s eye, but riddled with a different kind of daddy issue. Throw in an inebriated (and almost unrecognisable) Emma Thompson as Harold’s wife and that’s your major players in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).
Having caught Frances Ha a few years ago, I feel pretty well prepared for Noah Baumbach’s New Yorkian spin on the comedy drama. Borrowing a fair amount from a filmmaker like Woody Allen, there is also a marvellous contemporary edge to Baumbach’s movies that on the one hand makes them feel nostalgic and on the other completely relevant. Much like the aforementioned movie starring Greta Gerwig, Baumbach manages to capture something brilliantly effervescent about the human experience in the big city, where the chaos and noise of life feel like illnesses surrounding very lonely people.
In The Meyerowitz Stories, the characters are engaging in an unrelenting barrage of snappy dialogue that feels jazzy and offbeat, but also underlined with a constant sense of pathos. The crippling side effects of being Harold’s offspring slowly emerges as being each one of the defining characteristics for all of them, whilst they tragically cope with the failing health of their father that launches them into freefall as decades of bitter resentment come spewing out. Cemented by solid performances from a stellar cast, this is one of the most likable and emotionally engaging movies of the year.
It was phenomenal to watch Adam Sandler act his socks off as the dejected Danny, a character whose piano and parenting skills should have easily made him so much more of a hero than he projects. His scenes with Stiller are some of the best in The Meyerowitz Stories, feeling like a much needed comedy partnering that should have been explored back in the days of Happy Gilmore. This is a lot more grown up than that movie but you can’t help but get a little proud with these comedic heavyweights coming together so brilliantly.
The filmmaking was also wonderful to behold, in particular the brutal editing which often cuts the characters off mid-sentence. This had a charming effect of capturing the messiness of life and the impossible task of ever formulating a coherent explanation of why family can mess us up so bad. The marvellous rhythm of the script and the fluidity of the camerawork made it feel quasi-documentary, and something that is a truly remarkable movie for 2017.