Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

2 Oct

Image result for the meyerowitz stories (new and selected)

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, Noah Baumbach has had some pretty terrific films this decade. “Greenberg,” “Mistress America,” “De Palma,” “While We’re Young,” and he also co-wrote “Madagascar 3!”

(That last one, I probably need to revisit, based on that credit alone!)

Oh, and he also made “Frances Ha”…I’m going to have plenty to say about that one by the end of the decade. I’ve gone from liking that film to leaving it everything in my will!

Baumbach’s movies have that effect on me. I’ll “admire” his work before I “like” them after watching them again. And again. And again.

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” is his 2017 Netflix Original film that impressed me when I first saw it…and I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve streamed it since then. (I even listened to it play on my phone while walking around my local library, I’m that familiar with it by now!)

You’d think “The Meyerowitz Stories” is based on a novel or a collection of short stories…it’s not. But you’d think it is.

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” is a comedy-drama about adult siblings who are still in the shadow of their father. Their father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), is a retired Bard College art professor and sculptor…this guy is a piece of work……OK, let’s just say it–he’s a self-centered asshole who resents any attention not given to himself. He even turns down Bard’s faculty group show to present some of his sculptures because he doesn’t want to be part of any group show. (Oh get over yourself, you miserable loser!)

His unemployed son Danny (Adam Sandler) moves in with him after separating from his wife. Danny loves his father and wants to be closer to him, but it’s clear Harold’s favorite son is Danny’s half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller), a successful financial advisor who works on the other side of the country probably just to be as far away from his father as possible. Matthew resents Harold for preferring a life of art over money. (“I BEAT YOU!” he shouts at him at one point.)

Oh, and there’s also Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), Danny’s sister and Matthew’s half-sister. She’s withdrawn and awkward and probably my favorite character in the film, right next to Danny’s sexually charged college-bound aspiring-filmmaker daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten). Jean’s laid-back, sincere one-liners make me chuckle each time I revisit the film.

All of these characters are united when Harold goes to hospital due to illness. The siblings decide to manage his care themselves and they grow closer together in the process.

All of these actors are GREAT. Including Adam Sandler. When he’s not making “The Cobbler” (ugh) or “Jack & Jill” (UGGGGHHHH) or “Just Go With It” (BLECH!!!) or “The Ridiculous Six” (…OK, I skipped that one), he can show how good of an actor he is in a good movie. He’s not only good as Danny–he’s heart-breakingly good. I FEEL for this guy. It’s one of his most authentic performances of his career.

Oh, and the songs he plays in this movie? Nice tunes. (I don’t know if he or Baumbach wrote it, or if they wrote it together, or if composer Randy Newman did it, but still, these are good sounds. “Mommy and Daddy and Genius Girl Make Three”…OK, that title alone sounds like a Newman song.)

Oh yeah, I forgot about Emma Thompson as Harold’s boozy wife Maureen. This may be the best attempt at an American accent she’s ever accomplished…though that might be because she has to play the role as drunk most of the time.

Yeah, the acting is great, but what really makes the film great is the writing. Baumbach’s always been great with dialogue, and this is probably his most enthralling script. Everything these characters say, I’m listening to. And then I’m thinking about what they said. Sometimes, I need to rewatch scenes a few more times to make sure I heard everything, because as is typical of a Baumbach film, most of the characters talk over one another constantly, which also doesn’t help when the dialogue switches from topic to topic at great speed. (And as I said before, I have watched this film countless times in the past two years.) We get poignant insights and sharp comedy from just how privileged and ridiculous these people are.

Later this year, another Baumbach film is coming to Netflix–“Marriage Story,” starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. It’s gotten a lot of buzz at festivals, but I was looking forward to it even before that.

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