5.25.2018

Movies: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Full disclosure: I seem to be one of the only people on the planet who did not think The Squid and the Whale was a work of genius. I didn't care for it at all. And I haven't seen anything else Baumbach has directed, so . . . I didn't go in with very high expectations. Except I had seen a YouTube video by Nerdwriter1 that made me want to see this movie. So I finally watched it.

And I liked it.

Didn't love it.

Part of this is just the fact that I had trouble relating to the story, which is sort of The Royal Tenenbaums but less quirky and funny, I guess? Like, here is a creative and artistic family: patriarch Harold (Dustin Hoffman); adult children Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), Danny (Adam Sandler), and Matthew (Ben Stiller); and drunkard fourth wife Maureen (Emma Thompson). Except instead of pursuing their artistic talents and leanings, these kids are . . . not all right, anyway. Jean works for Xerox, Danny is unemployed and moving back home as he goes through a divorce, and Matthew is the only one whose made anything of himself—by moving across the country to L.A. and mostly avoiding the rest of his family. Harold is himself an artist who was also a professor at Bard, a self-centered child of a man who can only talk about himself or others in relation to himself. He tries and fails to use his name as a calling card and suffers to see a contemporary artist (Judd Hirsch) vault to recognition.

Like The Royal Tenenbaums, there is then a health crisis to bring the family together and force them to iron out their wrinkles.

As an only child of parents who are still married, I struggled to engage with the sibling and step-parent issues. Jean and Danny feel their father abandoned them when he left their mother for Matthew's mom. They also feel as though most of the burden of dealing with their dad falls to them since Matthew chooses to be far away. All valid, I suppose.

The movie starts out slow, too, with Danny struggling to find a parking space. It wasn't until we switched away from Danny to Matthew that I felt the movie got interesting. Stiller and Hoffman have a great dynamic and chemistry that just isn't there between Sandler and Hoffman. Maybe the flat feeling between the latter is intentional, but if so, it's a bad way to begin a movie.

I also have no sense of father-son relationships, which are showcased here far more than father-daughter ones. My husband, however, says this movie nails the way a father can treat two sons completely differently, as he's experienced with his dad and brother. For him, the movie struck a chord and felt very familiar.

The acting here is really good overall. The layers of dialogue (as showcased in that Nerdwriter1 video) are very well done. I definitely prefer the quirk and humor of Tenenbaums, but this one is still pretty good. I don't mean to damn with faint praise, it's just how I feel.