The Meyerowitz Stories Review

The Meyerowitz Stories

As sbc’s premier chancer / writer, an important part of my creative process in providing such ground-breaking and influential content is to make suitable allowance amidst a hectic schedule to prepare my loved ones for the passive-aggressive behaviour that inevitably manifests as the deadline for publication approaches.

Often my single typing digit is rendered inert by a pronounced and debilitating form of word ‘sluggishness’, a rapidly expanding forehead bearing the barely perceptible imprint of a keyboard in reflection as the neutered mind threatens to freeze over and probably for good this time.

Taking out your artistic frustrations on those closest also comes naturally to Dustin Hoffman’s Harold Meyerowitz; around whom the cast of Noah Baumbach’s well written and charming feature, The Meyerowitz Stories, orbit.

A sculptor of considerable repute in his youth, Harold’s career has long since stalled as his contemporaries went on to achieve significant commercial success.

He cannot conceal resentment at how the respective production of his peers has flourished, aping the literary style of art critics as he dissects their work. A spiteful and amusing device he also employs to analyse the varied degrees of success enjoyed by his three children.

Danny, played by Adam Sandler, is a recently divorced house-husband whose own musical aspirations heave never been fulfilled, mainly as a result of his own inertia. His lone outlet now is to channel all of his energies into smothering his grown-up film student daughter, Eliza.

Matthew is a wealthy West Coast financial adviser who, when not instructing the Hollywood elite in how to partially avoid their federal tax obligations, is arranging to flog Harold’s estate and considerable life’s work to the highest bidder.

Danny, Matthew and their sister Jean, of whom we do not learn a great deal, gather in New York to help arrange a retrospective exhibition to celebrate the artistic life of their father. They are provided haphazard assistance by Harold’s drunken fourth wife Maureen, brilliantly overplayed by Emma Thompson.

As Harold’s health starts to deteriorate his three children begin to reconcile issues from their upbringing as well as their own relationships. Whilst it is always apparent that they dearly wish to be closer, Danny and Matthew are barely on speaking terms and Jean mostly inhabits her own world. All three siblings suppress varying degrees of resentment to their distant father.

Watching the Meyerowitz Stories immediately puts you in mind of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, maybe as it too features Ben Stiller, who plays Matthew, but also with its themes of familial alienation and portrayal of stunted adult lives.

However where Wes Anderson’s dysfunctional tribe had been forced to bury their emotions by an overbearing patriarch, Baumbach’s story, whilst overly long and occasionally cloying, is likeable, funny and about a family full of heart.

Hoffman is perfect as the irritable, self centred and frustrated artist, unable to conceal the pain of his own failings well enough to build meaningful relationships with his family. Adam Sandler is surprisingly engaging; the pride in watching his blossoming daughter’s first forays into film-making is tangible. Although the irritating and no doubt patented technique of speaking quietly and then EXTREMELY FUCKING LOUDLY when getting angry is rolled out once again.

The Meyerowitz Stories

Stiller’s accountant Matthew is well drawn, the successful moneyman who dispenses financial advice is also the family member most in tune with the needs of his father. It is this relationship which is the emotional centre of the film.

Elizabeth Marvel as Jean employs a neat sideline in scene stealing, often barely contributing to the dialogue only then to cut through with a barbed quip when least expected.

The direction and editing is generally excellent, scenes are regularly cut just at the point where a character completely blows a top to good effect, although the tendency to subtitle different sequences of the film fails to add anything worthwhile to its narrative.

So if your bag is witnessing a talented artist unravel under the weight of his own importance as he searches for that elusive spark of inspiration whilst unwittingly and irrevocably damaging the relationship with those held most dear than The Meyerowitz Stories is most surely the film for you. However at a fraction of the cost you could always just pop round to my place for a cup of tea and a biscuit as a review deadline looms ever large on the horizon.

Frank Gardiner

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