The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), B
Unrated, 110 minutes
Family dysfunction is on full display in Noah Baumbauch's new Netflix dramedy "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected"), an unconventional yet affecting look at family and artistry.
The story of siblings Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler), Matthew Meyerowitz (Ben Stiller) and Jean Meyerowitz (Elizabeth Marvel) contending with the long shadow their strong-willed artist father, Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) has cast over their lives.
The humorous, well-acted character study "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) explores the different dimensions of New York City family dysfunction. The independent dramedy is directed and written by Noah Baumbach of such films as "Mistress America," "Frances Ha" and "While We Were Young" will be most memorable for Hoffman's excellent turn as the strong-willed, eccentric artist father, as well as for a solid turn from Stiller and especially Sandler in what is his best film in years.
Baumbach assembles different stories that focus on the children and then the family as a whole. It's all rather loose, talky and at times uncomfortable, but then family dysfunction usually is, especially when they all get together. Hoffman's opinionated patriarch Harold is a flawed one: he's married multiple times, he complains incessantly and has a penchant for being a little bossy, that is until he gets sick and the family must rally around him.
The three leads are terrific, with Hoffman leading the way, followed by Stiller and Sandler; it's nice in particular to see Sandler work through his character after years of those dumb, raunchy comedies, the a couple of which (on Netflix, no doubt) that are virtually unwatchable. It goes to show that Sandler can actually build a real character - here again a thoughtful slacker - yet with varied thoughts and feelings, versus all the funny voices and fart noises he's used to. Stiller is also good, though his uptight character isn't much of a departure than what he normally does.
They're all well supported in "Meyerowtiz Stories" by "House of Cards" Elizabeth Marvel as Danny and Matthew's equally troubled sister Jean, Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, chewing scenery as Harold's latest bushy-haird, alcoholic wife, Emmy-winner Candice Bergen as a former wife, and "Taxi's" award-winning Judd Hirsch as a fellow, crusty old artist colleague.
Baumbach's comedies are usually well-acted, funny and brim with a well-placed pensiveness, and "Meyerowitz Stories" is no different, which is both its strength and asset. It not much different than some of Baumbach's other unconventional stories, where every character has some obvious flaws they must attend to.
"The Meyerowitz Stories" is fun, talky and sad and worth a look for Baumbach's strong script, and the excellent performances, especially Hoffman and Sandler.