by Alan Yudman
So I spent $9 to see THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED). I didn’t realize it was available streaming on Netflix. Ok, in some ways I am still a technological dunce. But, I do not regret spending my hard earned dollars on the latest Noah Baumbach creation.
At its heart, MEYEROWITZ is about family… a very dysfunctional family lead by a father who thinks he is a good parent, but in reality is so self-involved he cannot see how he has misshapen his children. Dustin Hoffman is that patriarch. He’s thrice divorced and married for the fourth time, now to Emma Thompson. Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel are children from his second wife (Candice Bergen in a great small role). Ben Stiller is the youngest child from his third wife. Hoffman’s Harold was a fine art professor and sculptor. He thought he had more talent that he did in reality. He thought his lack of success was always someone else’s fault. Sandler is an aspiring songwriter who never got the support he needed, then gave up his career to be a stay at home Dad to Grace Van Patten. Marvel didn’t follow the arts, she’s some kind of office supervisor for Xerox. And Stiller broke front he family dynamic to become a hugely successful financial manager for actors and musicians.
As with all Baumbach characters, everyone is socially awkward and slightly odd. All except for Stiller who seems to have risen from the ashes of this family. A live-threatening health problem for Hoffman drives the second half of the movie. It brings the three kids together like they never have been in their lives. They must rely on each other and figure out how to make the family work.
MEYEROWITZ is funny and touching. With all the moronic, low effort comedies Sandler churns out it is easy to forget that he can actually act (see PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE). His Danny is sensitive and tortured, but he hides it under a cloak of responsibility and lightening quick anger. But it is easy to see how clueless about life and his own family he really is. Marvel is solid as the shy, awkward Jean and Stiller turns in a great performance as Matthew. Hoffman is Hoffman and he makes all the right choices as the self-involved shambling mess of a father.
Baumbach always makes interesting, entertaining films. He features characters that have good intentions and high aspirations but are just on the outside of the norm. THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) follows his formula and delivers a winning, fantastic film.