By Adam Ray Palmer
There’s a weird feeling sinking in when I go to festivals now... I expect a few streaming services flicks to pop up. This is my second Netflix picture in as many days at the LFF.
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) stars an illustrious cast including Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Adam Driver.
The Meyerowitz Stories captures a family’s gathering that takes place over a few weeks to celebrate the artistic career of their father, Harold (Hoffman). The estranged family that come together include siblings Matthew (Stiller), Danny (Sandler) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) and their ‘stepmother’ Maureen (Thompson).
What ensues over the next two hours are hilarious mini-stories where we learn little bits of the unique family’s make up. We see Matthew be the family’s prized possession and how he can do no wrong in his father’s eyes, we see Danny be the fall guy and he has simply amassed overwhelming disappointment in the same father’s eyes and then finally Jean; the outcast sister of the family whose personality is like a fun sponge.
Baumbach is known for his dry, comedic approach to drama and he stays true to form with The Meyerowitz Stories. Noah has the perfect balance between the two genres. You easily chuckle at most sequences but there’s always a subtle nuance of melodrama. Noah’s experienced direction really gets the best out of his script and actors.
The four core protagonists in Sandler, Stiller, Marvel and Hoffman are all delights. The chemistry, or I guess the lack of it for the majority of the picture, between Sandler and Stiller is entertaining to watch. You see character progression individually in this film, but also as a family unit when they’re pushed together. Stiller and Baumbach’s working relationship is still going strong with Meyerowitz Stories being their fourth collaboration; they just seem to get the best out of each other.
Furthermore, this is Sandler’s best work since his turn in the dramedy Funny People in 2009; which is still a favourite of mine. Sandler plays a single parent who cherishes his daughter, but has received little guidance from his own father (Hoffman) in how to be a supportive dad. Tension between Matthew and Danny is heightened because Danny’s daughter has a fatherly connection with Stiller too; much to Sandler’s annoyance. This underbelly of jealously makes for a fun jostle between the two sons.
We also need to take the time to appreciate the magician that is Dustin Hoffman. He’s frustratingly stubborn and reluctant to embrace his family, yet he manages to make you feel some kind of warmth towards him. His snarky and humorous comments make for amusing scenes, and cement his position as a heavyweight in the acting world even with limited screen time here.
Overall, The Meyerowitz Stories is a charming movie. The first 20 minutes is slow and lacks an emotional pull, but hold firm and stick with it because you certainly get rewarded. The growth in this film with the narrative, the characters and the melancholy is where it blossoms. You come intrigued, but you stay for the laughs, the warmth and the stellar performances.
Cineroom’s rating: 4.5 Stars
The Meyerowitz Stories is out on Netflix later this year - certificate 15