(Image via Netflix)
The Meyerowitz Stories is the latest from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, While We’re Young) and is one of his most accomplished films to date. The film tells the story of the Meyerowitz family, and how the siblings of the patriarch Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a legend in the New York art community, have coped with having such a unique and bizarre life because of that father’s legacy, and the ego that came with it. Danny (Adam Sandler) is moving in with his father right as his daughter is heading off to school. Matthew (Ben Stiller) is a successful businessman, and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) is the lone daughter who continues to try following in her father’s artist path. This is not a big film, but its an extraordinarily lovely one, with terrific performances by the entire cast, a great script, a lovely little score by Randy Newman, and a film that just might be the best film Netflix has ever done.
One of the big headlines around this film is that it features Adam Sandler in a dramatic performance, and that he’s really, really great in the film. I can attest for those headlines. Sandler has given some really fun comedic performances in the past, but he’s also showed his chops as an actor as well, with his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch Drunk Love and Judd Apatow‘s Funny People come to mind. It’s a shame that Sandler doesn’t do more work like The Meyerowitz Stories because he’s so good in it. The character of Danny is in the middle of a midlife crisis, with his wife having just left him and he’s now an empty nester with his daughter leaving the house. He was never someone who could stand up for himself, but always found a way to stand up for his father, even if his father wouldn’t have done the same for him. It’s a complicated role that Sandler plays with such simplicity and grace, and I hope that his performance in this film is enough for people to want to stream this film on their Netflix account in the near future.
Dustin Hoffman gives one of his better recent performances as the prickly patriarch to his children, a man who never seemed to think of others as much as he did of himself and his art. It possibly messed up his children down the road because of this parenting error, but his art wouldn’t have had the impact that it did (even though his art isn’t very well-known outside of the tight-nit New York art community). We don’t see a lot of Hoffman in movies nowadays, and when he does appear in a film it ends up being a real treat. I hope to see him collaborate with Baumbach in future projects of the writer-director, as Ben Stiller has with the director and given some career-best performances in Baumbach’s films. Elizabeth Marvel continues to do some fabulous work as the lone Meyerowitz daughter Jean, and Emma Thompson is really fun as the alcoholic current wife of Harold, who is constantly butting heads with his children throughout the film.
Baumbach has always had some really terrific music in his films, with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy providing the score for some of Baumbach’s recent work (I wasn’t a huge fan of While We’re Young, but I thought Murphy’s score was one of the best parts of that film). Since Murphy has gotten his band back and is busy touring with LCD all over the world (Can’t wait to see them on Halloween night this year), Baumbach has recruited Randy Newman to provide the score for his film. It’s not a big score like Newman has done for projects in the past, as the score is a compilation of little piano interludes to accompany many of the film’s scenes. Following a similar path with the rest of the bright parts of this film, Newman’s score is simplistic but really extraordinary. It doesn’t standout as being the best part of the film, but it’s a lovely little part of Baumbach’s lovely little film. I got an old school Woody Allen tone/feel with the film and that Randy Newman score, as we see our characters navigating New York City and the surrounding area throughout, and I can only assume that was intentional by Mr. Baumbach.
If you don’t want to run to your local theater to see anything this weekend (unless you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049 already), I think you’d enjoy staying in and streaming The Meyerowitz Stories. It’s one of Noah Baumbach’s best films to date, and it’s one of the best films of the year. It’s a quiet, funny, tragic and heartfelt little gem, and one that I hope gets to the widest audience possible thanks to the film being available on the streaming giant. If enough people see the film, hopefully the film could be up for a couple of awards later on in the year, which would be nice to see for a film like this one.