Noah Baumbach has lept from the artsy French New Wave Frances Ha to the comedy Mistress America to a fully indulgent comedy/drama in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).
In the typical Baumbach movie, it’s clear that he admires the liberal arts socialite life as much as he likes to poke at with its nose in the air. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a familial drama centered around three adult children and their father who come together in New York for an event that celebrates his artistic work.
Dustin Hoffman is fantastic as Harold Meyerowitz, the stubborn bygone man of self-given importance who would never let the rest of the world see him as struggling. Ben Stiller, returning to another Baumbach production after last seeing him as anxiety-laden Roger Greenberg in Greenberg, plays Matthew, Harold’s thriving businessman son who isn’t bogged down by his father’s troubles. Elizabeth Marvel plays Jean, the mousey and reserved yet artistically inclined sister.
Taking the lead amongst the players is Adam Sandler as Danny, who is always a delight to see in a more seriously-taken role. His failed marriage aside, he also struggles with a chronically worsening condition that he ignores. Sandler’s character construction is one of an unfulfilled middle-ager, un-pretension, and on the verge of rage.
…Baumbach commits to the joke that the more intelligent the family, the more they wrap themselves up in their own minutia and make even greater dysfunction.
The Meyerowitz Stories is chaptered with shared scenes showing the personal relationships of each son and father. It feels like the kind of movie that would take place if the kids from The Squid and the Whale grew up and sprouted their own dysfunctional families, and could also be a cousin to Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (which perhaps Baumbach has made his version of children grown under the roof of bohemian socialites who, now adult, struggle to connect with their parents and themselves). The dialogue feels stageplay screwball, like a Woody Allen film, with cyclical jokes drawing attention to the farce. Finally, player piano accompaniment from Randy Newman keeps the whole thing whimsical.
Baumbach’s film is smart, funny, tender and affecting. If it doesn’t tire you out that, again, Baumbach commits to the joke that the more intelligent the family, the more they wrap themselves up in their own minutia and make even greater dysfunction. The film should play cozy for those who will be watching from the comfort of their couches, which is now available to stream on Netflix.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a film that’s equally high and low art, which Baumbach seems to knead and bend in play-dough fashion, perhaps secretly grappling with a sense of art that imbues importance without being too self-important.
‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’ is rated TV-MA. 112 minutes. Now streaming on Netflix.