Brad’s Status (2017) ****

December 22nd, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Writer:  Mike White | Cast: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fisher, Michael Sheen Luke Wilson | Comedy drama | US | 102′

This welcome addition to the intergenerational conflict genre sees Ben Stiller as a father fraught with past regrets and present doubts on a trips that threatens to sabotage the boy’s hopes for the future.

Although BRAD’S STATUS sounds like a maudlin affair, it turns out to be hilarious, insightful and upbeat. Written and directed by Mike White who also stars as one of Stiller’s old school friends – a gay man who has found the same success on screen as he has in real life – this could turn out to one of best comedies of 2018. Stiller plays Brad with a wealth of subtle mannerisms that succinctly convey the modern angst of his midlife crisis in what White terms as “whiteman’s first world problems”, but we all empathise with him in his constant social-media meltdown. Similar to Stiller’s recent role in Noah Baumbach’s Meyerowitz Stories – here he plays the father rather than the offspring, but he’s a man who is essentially happy with his middle class life as founder of a worthwhile nonprofit group who enjoys a stable marriage and a decent rapport with his talented teenager. But a touch of envy and ego creeps in when he ruminates over the perceived successes of his old friends. Brad feels deflated by their fame and financial status, but also at the feeling of being left out of an invitation to a recent reunion gathering, an omission that he puts down to the fact that: “it wasn’t friendship that bonded them, but a perceived level of success”, in a peer group where he feels the inferior member. All these anxieties are relayed in Brad’s stream of consciousness as the two make their way to Boston and Cambridge (Massachusetts). Son Troy is played thoughtfully by Austin Abrams.

Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement also give flawless performances as his successful friends. The humour lies in the series of comedy scenarios showcasing their ‘perfect’ sex and money-filled lifestyles. In contrast  Brad ‘sees himself soldiering with his sad little life. And there’s a hint of amusing narcissism too in the way he ‘blames’ wife Melanie (Jenna Fisher) for being too content with her life and not being demanding enough about their choices. The only criticism here is the over-grating score. BRAD’S STATUS is a heart-warming film because Brad is just such a convincing character and one who chimes with us all as we overthink and reflecting on our lives, often to our own detriment. This is cleverly brought to a head by an incident involving Troy’s newfound friend (Shazi Raja), who confronts Brad with his own self-pity and solipsism in an ego-crushing moment that he had hoped might lead to an opportunity for an oldest-swinger-in-town flirtation. The final scenes navel-gazing as the regrets of the past meet the hopes for the future. It’s amusing and highly relevant in capturing today’s mood of mindfulness As Melanie so rightly says: “Be present, I love you”. MT





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