- Product Rating -

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

| November 7, 2017

I won’t miss a Noah Baumbach movie, but my resentment towards Adam Sandler is nigh impossible to ignore. Add to the equation that The Meyerowitz Stories is a Netflix film that I was either going to see in theaters or not see at all given my snobbish clinging to movies’ needing to be seen in theaters upon release, and this was a bit of a wildcard from the beginning. While it isn’t as consistent as I would have liked, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)—as is its full title—deftly blends deadpan humor and warm family drama. It has some notable pacing issues towards the end, but it’s also bolstered by strong performances across the board, showcasing Baumbach’s progression as a filmmaker in terms of his worldview.

Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller), and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) are siblings whose father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) is an artist. The three estranged offsprings reunite in New York City to attend an event celebrating their father’s work, leading them to confront their having to live in the shadow of Harold’s success throughout their lives, especially when he falls ill. What sounds like common indie fare in terms of content and themes is livened up by Baumbach’s humor and a endearing critique of the art scene, sometimes taking a nearly parodical tone.

The film is split up into chapters that follow each of the characters’ lives, a decision that sometimes repeats over its chronology from different points of view. It works at its best when it’s at its more observational, refraining from judging its characters and instead finding the ubiquity in their emotions. I wasn’t expecting The Meyerowitz Stories to be as warm as it was at times, especially given how sadly other filmmakers could have approached the material. Sandler, Stiller, and Marvel are the heart of the film overall, the latter of whom lends the most sarcastic humor while avoiding the falsity that could have arisen from such a character. Jennifer Lame, regular editor for Baumbach, plays many scenes with a quicker pace than usual, sometimes cutting characters off in the midst of sentences when it’s clear what they’re trying to convey. This technique can feel a little choppy at times, but it works for the most part and provides a sense of personality to the movie overall.

The issues with The Meyerowitz Stories have to do with Baumbach’s script, as is often the root of issues in the films that he writes by himself. The final 15 minutes or so feel cyclical, teasing an ending without getting to the destination soon enough. The scenes in question not only lack momentum but also lack variation in terms of pacing and tone, forcing them to become more cacophonous than ceremonious. The lighting can also be flat in some scenes, namely towards the ending wherein the actors look dull and too entangled in their environments in what seem to be unintentional ways.

While The Meyerowitz Stories is still clearly Baumbach, it’s Baumbach after his collaborations with Greta Gerwig, and for the better. It’s clearer that he’s grasping a better sense of self-awareness in how he sees the worlds of his movies and the people that populate them, and yet he approaches them with just enough warmness to be enjoyable. It doesn’t always have the flow that should carry on with and need not be almost two hours, so yes, it can feel a bit self-indulgent at times. But it’s also a reason to have faith in the talent of Sandler, which in 2017, is a groundbreaking feat to achieve.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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