An eccentric extended family comes to terms with fraught and awkward relationships in this heartfelt comedy by Noah Baumbach.
Dir. Noah Baumbach
2017 | USA | Comedy/Drama | 112 mins | 1.85:1 | English
NC16 (Netflix rating) for coarse language, sexual references and nudity
Cast: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Grace Van Patten, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson
Plot: An estranged family gathers together in New York City for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
A couple of years before Noah Baumbach made Marriage Story (2019) for Netflix, he did another film, also distributed by Netflix, called The Meyerowitz Stories.
Marriage Story, of course, had tremendous success, and probably gained a new horde of fans for the American indie filmmaker, but to me, The Meyerowitz Stories is an even better film, and still very much under-the-radar.
With Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller headlining the cast, playing estranged brothers (or more accurately, one of them is a half-brother) whose love-hate relationship with each other and their father (as played by Dustin Hoffman) forms the crux of the narrative, The Meyerowitz Stories is a comedy with an unexpectedly wistful tone.
It could be one of Baumbach’s most heartfelt films to date as he deals with themes of acceptance and reconciliation in the context of an overly eccentric extended family whose past wounds flare up through moments of emotional vulnerability.
“It’s called flirting when you’re young. I’m not sure what it’s called when you’re over 70.”
As the title hints, The Meyerowitz Stories is told through chapters, or short stories if you will, that give us a better understanding of selected characters.
There is a recurring subtheme of art versus commerce, as the family’s patriarch, a retired professor-cum-artist, comes to terms with his mortality and the legacy of his work.
Baumbach weaves this into a story of feuding brothers who must decide how to treat their father’s legacy and the family home—in one of the film’s most memorable segments, Stiller and Sandler go toe-to-toe with each other in a physical scuffle, and later, suffer an emotional breakdown in public as they speak on behalf of their ill father.
You wouldn’t expect something like this from two popular comedians, but Baumbach’s style, always offbeat in its treatment of family or relational dynamics, seems to be only a natural fit.