My Favorite Movies – Brad’s Status (2017)

18 May

By Tanner Smith

Funny thing–the first time I watched “Brad’s Status” was when I Redbox’d it over three years ago. I watched it with my fiancee Kelly. Neither of us cared for it that much. We both thought Ben Stiller’s bitter, resentful “Brad” should stop complaining already!!

Seriously, Brad has a pretty great life. He’s got a great wife, a great kid, a great house on a great (quiet) street, great great great… It’s only when he’s thinking about the bountiful wealth obtained by his college buddies that he thinks he’s hit bottom.

Both Kelly and I agreed upon watching the movie…that Brad needs to lighten up, get a little perspective, and realize how good he has it.

BUT let’s be honest–when we compare ourselves to others, no matter how comfortable we might be, we each think to ourselves…why aren’t I more satisfied? Why do THEY get these great things in life, but not ME?

Point being, and the reason I gave the film another shot (and ended up watching it enough times to realize it deserves a spot as one of my new favorite films)…is that it is so easy to look at this through a clearer perspective when we are not currently in that envious mindset.

“Brad’s Status,” written and directed by Mike White, stars Ben Stiller as Brad Sloan, who runs his own nonprofit that matches foundations with deserving beneficiaries. Brad is going through a midlife inner turmoil, when he just can’t stop thinking about how rich and successful his old friends have become. He lets us know this with some of the best chosen moments of voiceover narration in film history that let us into his thoughts (complete with the perfect music score that makes us feel as anxious as Brad). And this is happening on a weekend in which he accompanies his brilliant, socially awkward, musically talented 17-year-old son Troy (Austin Abrams) to check out potential colleges, leaving his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) at home. Time for some father-son bonding…and time for some jealousy when Brad considers Troy may grow up to be a rich, successful musician…or one of those street performers who will play for any amount of change.

See what I mean?? Brad’s got it bad. And thankfully, the movie doesn’t ignore his problem. The best scene in the movie, which helps Brad wake up a little bit, is when one of Troy’s friends, Ananya (Shazi Raja), asks Brad for some life advice and gets tired of what he has to rant about. She tells him dead-on that he has nothing to complain about.

Thank you, Ananya. Thank you for saying what Kelly and I have been thinking all along.

The rest of the movie, from that point on, very cleverly pulls the rug out from under us (and I won’t give away how it does). Brad starts to see the light and appreciate what he has rather than what he doesn’t…but maybe that’s just for now. For all we know, Brad could have another mental breakdown the following week.

But we do know this–it does happen…and it does pass.

The more I thought about it all (again, gaining a little more perspective), the more I admired what writer-director Mike White set out to accomplish with this moving comedy-drama. And he picked the perfect actor to play this complicated part: Ben Stiller.

“Brad’s Status” is definitely the most “Ben Stiller-est” Ben Stiller movie ever made. And Brad Sloan is the perfect role for Ben Stiller. In “The Meyerowitz Stories,” “While We’re Young,” “Greenberg,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and even the “Night at the Museum” movies, among others, we’ve noticed in the past decade just how good Stiller is at playing a neurotic who is hardly satisfied with where he is at his point in life. Stiller has played self-centered, passive-aggressive, humorously unhappy men who aren’t so easy to like but even harder to hate. And now we have Brad’s Status, which is probably the most aware of Stiller’s trademark niche.

But the point of “Brad’s Status,” in which the main character has a midlife crisis, is that this feeling does exist. And it passes. The ending is ambiguous, but there is a ray of hope that Brad will be fine with his status. With the aid of White’s insightful screenplay and direction, Stiller nails the role. Sometimes, he’s frustrating to watch (to the point where I want to look away). But even still, he’s always convincing and it’s not too difficult to understand why he thinks this way throughout the film.

He is what makes “Brad’s Status” an important study in how to cope with personal regrets. This guy may not be easy to like, but just remember—this could be us some day.

So…yeah, I love this movie. I didn’t love it when I was first saw it. But throughout the three years to follow, I’ve come around to seeing what made it special.

2017 was such a special year for movies that even when you’re not sure about a certain 2017 film, it’ll still grow on you! (And heads-up: there will be many 2017 films in this My Favorite Movies series! Lady Bird was only the beginning…)

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