Meyerowitz Stories Review Elizabeth Marvel Adam Sandler Ben StillerYear: 2017
Director(s): Noah Baumbach
Writer(s): Noah Baumbach
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: n/a
Super 16, Color, 112 mins

Synopsis: An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father. (Source)

We can’t choose the families we’re born into, but like it or not, they’re for life. By nature, these relationships are messy. We can go through stages of loving a family member, loathing them, being in awe of them, but above all, there’s a tie that can never be broken. This unsaid, inexplicable bond is at the heart of Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Perhaps one of the most comprehensive portraits of cinematic dysfunction, Baumbach’s latest captures what it’s like to both find and lose ourselves in family. Eccentric and indomitable, just like its characters, Meyerowitz may never miss an opportunity to laugh at the frailty of its characters, but also finds unmistakable grace between the punchlines.

A series of short stories, or moments, plot the Meyerowitz tales, which begin as the family reunites around Harold, its patriarch living in NYC. Harold (Dustin Hoffman) is an ailing sculptor who feels that his work has been overlooked by critics and peers. His third wife, Maureen (Emma Thompson) is a free spirit, coming and going as she pleases when she isn’t prepping artsy dinners that leave everyone’s appetites longing for more. Danny (Adam Sandler) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) are siblings from Harold’s first wife, in a way runts who were mistreated and left to fend for themselves. Then there’s the estranged Matthew (Ben Stiller), Danny and Jean’s step brother, and the most successful of the bunch. He left home to run away from Harold’s imposing shadow, and finds himself able to cope with family because of distance. Using a structure that forms fragmented narratives into a breathtaking whole, Baumbach captures the Meyerowitz’s at both their best and worst, as they attempt to cope with themselves, each other, and lives that didn’t pan out the way they’d all hoped.

With events split into chapters, Baumbach’s film is an elegant look at the beautiful chaos of family. Positioning the stories deep into the adulthood of Harold’s children, there’s a poignant reflection of parenthood, hopes, dreams and the legacy we leave to our loved ones. Intimate conversations are the backbone of the film, with these scenes often functioning as rapid-fire therapy sessions. Old truths are uncovered amidst hidden reverence, ego and admiration constantly collide and Baumbach’s existential tension holds a symphony of dissonance together with raw realism. Even the dialogue is snappy and full of bite, delivered with deadpan conviction and angst that can suddenly burst into moments of unhinged slapstick. With characters shuffling through each others lives, Baumbach systematically dissects his eccentric group of misfits, each wholly disparate, yet tethered to a sense of belonging. Overall, this is a sobering depiction of family from the inside out, replete with a distinct truth – no matter how angry or frustrated we get with those we love, in the end, nothing else matters.

Meyerowitz Stories Review Elizabeth Marvel Adam Sandler Ben Stiller Grace Van PattenIn terms of the ensemble, they’re utterly irresistible, building off of Baumbach’s already sophisticated direction. We’ve never seen Dustin Hoffman quite like he is here. As Harold, Hoffman speaks his mind no matter the consequences, keeping everyone at a distance while remaining totally transparent. Hoffman steals the show, an incredible beacon of world-weary energy and hidden pride for his family. Adam Sandler’s Danny is a combustible force of emotion. Sandler is also the heart of the film, wearing Danny’s emotions like an exposed wound and acting as the family mediator. There’s a sincerity to Sandler that’s never less than genuine, and he’s never been more magnetic. Ben Stiller ain’t no slouch either, lending the family its most fragile character. Last but absolutely not least, Elizabeth Marvel’s Jean, Grace Van Patten’s Eliza and Emma Thompson’s Maureen round out the cast, playing women with hidden strengths and commanding presence, each silently dealing with their own battles. These three women are the film’s anchors, keeping things steady and constant amidst all of the commotion.

Baumbach has rarely skipped a beat in his career, and Meyerowitz promises that he isn’t going to any time soon. His latest is a rip-roaring, reflective take on making the best of what we can’t control, learning to find solace in one another and how the things we value unexpectedly change with age. Whether its Baumbach’s command of gut-busting laughs or the powerful emotion that stitches a rich tapestry together, this film is an absolute must, a new classic that is as timeless as they come.

SG