Baumbach's New York: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Updated on October 23, 2017
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Synopsis

The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) takes a look at the lives of an aging professor and sculptor and his children. Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) retired from his teaching position and still has much of the work he has created over the years. Only Harold and his current wife, Maureen (Emma Thompson) live in their New York home. However, Harold invites his unemployed and divorced son Danny (Adam Sandler) to live there temporarily after Danny's daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten) leaves for college. Harold and Maureen are trying to sell that place and live full time in Massachusetts. On their own, father and son attend a museum exhibit of the works of fellow sculptor LJ Shapiro (Judd Hirsch). After the sculptors briefly speak, Harold demands to leave, even as Danny enjoys catching up with LJ's daughter Loretta (Rebecca Miller).

Harold's insistence of owning the dominating viewpoint soon lands him in the hospital with a head injury he refused to have examined. Danny and his sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) keep vigil as Harold's other son, Matthew (Ben Stiller), who'd recently come from Los Angeles for business, returns for an extended period. As Harold's condition fails to improve. Matthew tries to get more information on Harold's condition as though he, and not Maureen, were Harold's health care representative. Maureen, who is away because she's trying to get the household situation in order, gives her approval. His children start to show the worst of the effects Harold has had on their lives.

Evaluation

The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) is a thorough and absorbing look at a family in a constant love-hate relationship with one another. Every one of them has or has shown artistic potential, though none of them find themselves in a position to make a living from their individual pursuits. Their love of music, film, and sculpture will never leave them, in spite of Matthew's insistence that Harold is the only artist in the family. Every one of them shows an ability to talk to and talk at somebody in the same conversation. Writer-director Noah Baumbach shows a familiarity with New York that rivals the works of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. Baumbach also has a flair for family dysfunction like Wes Anderson. Like Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, Baumbach divides his film like chapters from a book. The score from Randy Newman complements the stories the serio-comic tone of the movies.

When I see Sandler in films like this one, I wish he'd make time for films like this, and less with efforts like the Grown Ups movies or The Waterboy or some of the other things he has done for Netflix. Here, Sandler shows he can be funny and dramatic. Danny struggles to find his place in life as he ponders his future and confronts the failings of his past. He has options as a newly single man, but is indecisive in his direction. This is easily the best role I've seen from Sandler. Stiller is also strong as Matthew, who has made a comfortable living in wealth management. The one thing beyond his managerial skill is his family. He tries keeping up with his son on the other side of the country, but the real problem is a family who doesn't easily connect. Hoffman shines as a fussy and angry man who has passed these emotions on to his children. Any perceived slight brings fits of yelling, even when he mistakenly thinks someone has walked away with his jacket. Thompson finds coping in drink as Maureen, a woman who functions in her own way, selectively listens to Harold, and secretly feels grateful she never had children of her own.

The film has other memorable support as well. Marvel speaks softly, but has harbored one big secret involving one of Harold's old friends. Van Patten delights as Eliza, a film student that enjoys making sexually explicit and bizarre short films. Candice Bergen appears briefly as Julia, an ex-wife of Harold's who admits some regrets to the way she was with Matthew's half-siblings. Adam Driver appears in a sequence as a musician client of Matthew's who tries to get the life he wants as quickly as his finances will allow. Sigourney Weaver makes a cameo as a celebrity fan of LJ's.

Conclusion

The Meyerowitz Stories marks career highs for both Baumbach and Sandler. A family with a passion for the arts also bares its emotions for one another. These feelings grow stronger as the senior member of the family encounters a serious health issue. While his father fights for life, his older son wonders what he's going to do with his. The family knows that Harold will live his life in a bitter and self-important way. They work to deal with that while they work to attain a more meaningful sense of importance.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) 3.5 stars. A family with an enormous tolerance for discomfort.

The Meyerowitz Stories trailer

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