The Meyerowitz Stories

There aren’t many writer, directors who can write so well characters hiding the emotional scarring of their upbringing trying to gain recognition or respect of their parents. The Meyerowitz Stories explores similar themes like Baumbach’s breakout film black comedy The Squid and The Whale, but this is a lighter affair with the children of one self-entitled sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) who have had very different doses of love after his multiple marriages. His eldest, stay at home divorced dad Danny and admin assistant daughter Jean (Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel), lie in the shadow of their younger ‘half’ brother Matthew (Ben Stiller), who has his own successful business as an accountant for artists. Danny tries as much to serve as a crutch to his father, when ironically he can do one himself with a bad limp that he dismisses stubbornly when his family tell him to seek help. Whilst Danny seeks inclusion into the family of his father and brother, Matthew views his relationship with his father as a mild inconvenience into his busy schedule. When Harold falls ill and is admitted to hospital, his children band together to look after him at the hospital. What may seem for a call of instant conflict is instead a sweet bonding experience amongst the three, as Matthew challenges Danny and Jean as to why they are so loyal to their father.

Baumbach plays The Meyerowitz for laughs throughout and it really punches hard in places, Danny and Matthew taken on vengeance for their sister against a friend of Harold’s is a standout piece of comedy that has to be seen. For those who have been pining for Adam Sandler to show what a good actor he is again, he doesn’t let down. Whilst Danny is the character you endear to, it’s Ben Stiller’s more restrained performance as Matthew that somewhat steals the show, especially for those who feel Stiller can overdo it at times. Jean’s story and presence is always someone hanging in the background, who although quiet, is relatively stable. Perhaps a criticism is the lack of character depth and screen time afforded to her to give her equal billing. But Baumbach is careful not to overly sugarcoat the ending for his characters. Since Squid and The Whale, quite a few of his films I have found to either be a bit cringeworthy or twee, but there’s no element of that here and thus in my opinion, his best film film since.

Chris Aitken

★★★★