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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a 2017 drama about an estranged family that gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.

The strained family relationship movie is a tricky trip to take with quirky characters swirling about in often grounded themes that make for generally earnest films that while sometimes cringeworthy are highly entertaining. Think of Wes Anderson‘s The Royal Tenenbaums or Noah Baumbach‘s The Squid and the Whale. The Meyerowitz Stories is akin to both, written and directed by Baumbach, and once again, like The Squid and the Whale, about a father and his sons, intellectuals dealing with a number of long-festering familial issues. It’s not interested in exploring new territory, but rather investing with great weight what we already recognize, making this one of the most impactful films of the year.

Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) is an aging New York City artist, a sculptor of earlier renown that never quite made it to wider success. He’s been married multiple times – currently to Maureen (Emma Thompson) – and has three children, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Danny (Adam Sandler), all of them from different mothers. Harold is naturally dark, quietly disdainful of life in general despite his relative success, his personality bristling and rarely sympathetic. He is barely there for anyone, even as everyone around him seems insistent that he notice them. Danny is about to be divorced and has never had to work a day in his life, and as such is sort of a drifter, unaccomplished and uninspired. He has a college-aged daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten), whom he has a close friendly relationship. Matthew on the other hand has escaped to LA and is doing well as a business manager and has come to the city for work but staying for a few days. There is a muddled subdural chaos among these men and on the peripheral, Jean lingers unaffecting, but full of commentary, burdened her own place in it all.

There’s an unsettling calmness about The Meyerowitz Stories that plays like a concert violin with one string slightly out of tune but struck upon with every other chord. It’s oddly addictive and helps tremendously is keeping what is surely very traumatic always a little humorous, none of it ever distracting. Take the moment when at a crucial turning point, Matthew demands both Jean and Danny should write down what they are hearing, it’s important. What follows is a very funny and yet strikingly emotional moment, the action deserving of a laugh and the context deadly serious. It’s precisely what it’s all about.

The film is segmented into named chapters, each one starting after the previous cuts off abruptly with someone in mid-sentence, creating this sort of purposefully disjointed story that serves to symbolize the relationships themselves. It pieces together the complexities of Harold’s influence on his children, assembling a jarringly messy and affecting story of people in shambles, scratching at anything to stay afloat. That’s made all the more so by a swell of very good performances. Hoffman is potent and toxic and makes every moment in the film feel a result of him. Stiller is, as always, wonderfully natural, but it’s Sandler who strikes the hardest, proving once again he is capable of absolute astonishment, making so much of what he does otherwise all the more confounding. A late scene with he and Stiller is the film’s highlight and will change everything you think about the actor, even if you dismiss his work in Punch-Drunk Love.

The film is glued together by the women, all of whom provide much of the warmth and growth, and a touching score by Randy Newman balances much of the tone. The Meyerowitz Stories is a powerfully centered and personal film that no matter its eccentric peculiarities is always accessible, a moving and emotional experience that is highly recommended.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Review

Movie description: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a 2017 drama about an estranged family that gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father. 

Director(s): Noah Baumbach

Actor(s): Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Grace Van Patten, Dustin Hoffman

Genre: Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 5 (1 vote)