The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) - This Dysfunctional Family Movie Rocks
Dir: Noah Baumbach
Starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson, Judd Hirsch, Rebecca Miller, Sigourney Weaver, Adam Driver
Noah Baumbach has ploughed his own furrow humorously chronicling modern day dysfunction, notably within families of varying description and notably in New York. With The Meyerowitz Stories (too long a title to invoke) he has found perhaps his most dysfunctional family to date. It’s also one of his strongest films, one that shrouds its abundant comedy in shades of sadness, even going so far as to touch on bleakness.
Hoffman is the patriarch, a wonderful creation, a never-really-successful sculptor with little or no ability to see the failings in himself, but very quick to note those in others in a very precise analytical, naturally patronising way. He turns this ability on both others in the art world, and, closer to home, his own children – Sandler, Stiller and Marvel. Given such a role at the later stage of his career is clearly something Hoffman takes great pleasure in here, embracing the irascible nature of the man, whilst clearly taking great delight in the almost detached and very precise nature of his dialogue. He could easily dominate the film, but Baumbach is sure to make room for the rest of his cast, none more so than Sandler. His performance here (this is a Netflix movie but not one of his four picture deal) is not a revelation – anyone who’s ever seen Punch Drunk Love knows what depths the man can dredge to his surface – but it is some of his best, most interesting and well delivered work in years. He’s still recognisably Sandler, but there’s nuance and even pain here, a portrait of a man worn down by many of the circumstances of his life, but resilient also. Stiller (one of Baumbach’s factotums – Greta Gerwig being the other one) also does great work as the child his father actually doted on and who has now come to resent it. Both actors really take to subtly reworking their more usual personas, imbuing them with real depth. As their sister, Marvel brings less baggage to the screen, but just about steals all her key scenes. (Emma Thompson also does a nice turn as an always sozzled “recovering” alcoholic.)
Baumbach divides his film into separate titled chapters, and for the film’s third act, this becomes a series of brief vignettes that go to blackout. He also has a habit of ending all these sequences mid-line. It’s something that gives the film as a whole a sense of being a series of snapshots, a family photo album, full of mixed memories, some of them good and warm, some of them not so. The Meyerowitz Stories is a comedy of family, a comedy of manners, but it’s also knows that a certain kind of domestic tragedy is never far from the surface.
The Meyerowitz Stories (Too Long A Title) hits Netflix from October 13
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