Brad's Status, B
Rated R, 101 minutes
Determining the measure of true success is often a complex idea, especially in the United States, where many have the mentality to "keep up with the Joneses," constantly comparing ourselves to others. That's the premise of the relevant, likable new Mike White dramedy "Brad's Status," about one man's struggle to determine what it really means to be successful.
Brad Sloan ("Night at the Museum's" Ben Stiller) has a satisfying career and a comfortable life in suburban California with his wife ("The Office's" Jenna Fischer) and college-bound son ("The Walking Dead's" Austin Abrams), but he feels he's not where he wants to be. Sloan keeps comparing his life with those of his four college friends (Mike White, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jermaine Clement), wondering what it would be like to have their well-paying and glamorous jobs. When circumstances force Brad to reconnect with his buddies, he soon begins to question whether he has failed, or is in some ways the most successful of them all.
"Brad's Status" is directed and written by "Enlightened's" Mike White, who also appears here as one of Brad's successful friends. There are some fun moments in Brad's journey to finding success as he visits colleges with his son, hoping to land him the best college, not just for his son, but to increase his success status. It'd be hard to be Brad, with a millionaire business, financial guru, political commentator and film director as his college buddies: it may be time to find some new friends.
On that note, there are some elements that feel contrived, given that 4 out of the 5 buddies are now in the 1%, when in reality it's likely the other way around, but then the struggle in "Brad's Status" has to be how to even make that determination: does a happy, content middle-class family count as the new 1%, given all the stress that comes with making so much money, I mean is it really worth it in the end?
"Brad's Status" has a great cast and some humorous moments, especially when Brad's delusions get the best of him as he envisions himself as part of the 1%. Stiller is perfectly cast, and he believably captures Brad's flaws, revealing that he's more normal than any of his friends, and likely has the best life of them all. It helps that many of Brad's scenes are with his super-intelligent son, played with monotone appeal and charm in a breakout turn from the young Abrams (Fischer's role on the other hand, seems minimal and one-note).
In spite of some of its imperfections and contrivances, "Brad's Status" is an appealing look at what happens to many Americans: they get stuck by comparing themselves to others. Most importantly, the overriding message from it is a nice one: enjoy what you have and enjoy it with the person (or people if you have a family) you're with.