Monday, 16 October 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

I've always enjoyed Adam Sandler. I know that's not a "cool" thing to say but I'm 38 and cool things are for teenagers. From beating old game show hosts up on golf courses to pushing a poker through John Turturro's frostbitten foot, he's always made me laugh, even when the film wasn't the best. In his older films there was always a sense of danger about the characters he played. Even in his most MOR fare like The Wedding Singer there was always a feeling his characters could snap and murder someone. But in the last few years he's made some awful, awful tosh. Like really terrible shit. It's been annoying because we know he has the ability to be good. He's shown his dramatic flair to proper effect in a couple of films. Funny People for one and especially Punch Drunk Love. When the material is worthy he can definitely rise to the occasion. 

The Meyerowitz Stories on Netflix is one such occasion. And Sandler is great in it. I really enjoyed seeing him with some light behind his eyes once again.

2 estranged brothers (Danny & Matthew ) and their sister (Jean) from a well off Jewish family reconnect in New York when their father's ( Dustin Hoffman) exhibition and an illness bring them together. Resentments and family secrets come to the fore as we see that money and privilege isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I found this to be a fierce likable film full of warm performances from actors not especially known for them. As mentioned earlier Sandler as Danny was fantastic. The best I've seen him in 15 years. You get the sense he's loving to get to play a character embued with the anger of his earlier roles but one with a depth missing from those roles too. He actually acts and is pretty amazing doing it. Ben Stiller as Matthew is on top form too. One scene of him trying to keep his emotions in check was a lovely tender little moment. He takes a character who would be unlikable in another story and makes him fragile and human. Elizabeth Marvel as Jean has a smaller role but gets the lions share of the darker part of the story. She brings a nice quirky edge to the tale and her exasperated frustration with her brother's will make you laugh. Dustin Hoffman as their father and the architect of their dysfunction is superb also. A selfish egotist who manages to be funny in places and immensely prickish in others. A scene between him and Ben Stiller will make you want to punch a wall with how familiar it feels, especially if you have older family members. The supporting cast is a cracker also. Emma Thompson is great fun in a small role and Adam Driver is funny in the one scene he turns up in plus we get a nice surprising cameo too to round things off. 

Usually I find it hard to care for the troubles and foibles of the well to do but when characters are this well written and acted and genuine you will fall for them. It felt similar to something like The Royal Tannenbaums but with a more realistic edge. The story is nothing new either but the cast carries it along with aplomb. An accomplished cast playing warm, likable characters can help forgive any lack of originality.

It's a story about the intricacies of family life. About loving someone but at the same time not especially liking them but standing by them because of that invisible bond. It's pretty great. It's humane and feels real. Director Noah Baumbach is in super form here and it's the best thing he's done since 2005's The Squid And The Whale. Plus it's easily the best Netflix original movie I've watched.

Don't let yourself be put off watching this because of who's in it. You'll be missing out.

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