Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman
Watch The Meyerowitz Stories online in the UK: Netflix UK
After the silly to-do over the Netflix logo being booed during the Cannes screening of Okja, it’s really egg on the face of detractors because Netflix has rocked up to the Croisette with two of the best films in the Official Selection.
Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman, on scintillating form) is a retired sculptor living in Manhattan. His son, Danny (Adam Sandler, acting his socks off and making you pine for him to stop making nonsense and do more films like this), has recently split up with his wife and is at a loose end. Matthew (Ben Stiller) is the high-flying business executive living out in LA and who is very distant from the daily lives of his father and siblings. Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) is almost invisible to her brothers and parents. It’s safe to say the Meyerowitzes are borderline estranged from one another – and, when they do get together, they tend to talk at each other rather than to each other.
Hoffman knocks it out of the park and it’s without a doubt one of his best roles in years. Harold feels aggrieved by a lack of recognition in the art world and his egomania and selfishness has caused great damage to his kids. They’re not totally dysfunctional but instead of airing their grievances, they’ve let them fester. Danny, a stay-at-home husband, has never had a career or job and he longs for his old man to do simple things – like telling him he loves him, that he’s proud of him, that all is going to be okay. But Harold, when he does start conversations, usually talks about himself and whines about his unrecognised genius.
Split into chapters, replicating short stories, often focusing on an individual’s backstory or current dilemma, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is top-tier Noah Baumbach and it’s really beautiful to see Sandler giving it his all and crafting such a warmhearted but damaged character, while Stiller – a Baumbach regular – is very funny as the youngest Meyerowitz, doing his best to distance himself from his father and siblings, but realising home is where the heart is.
Baumbach is often described as the heir apparent to Woody Allen, and the comparisons are bang-on. Witty dialogue, neurotic characters, messy lives, much introspection, the upper-middle-class Manhattan setting and deadpan use of editing invoke the spirit of vintage Allen like nobody else around. Yet there’s a warmth to Baumbach’s work absent in Allen’s, which always opts for a kind of fatalistic aloofness.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) rings with a universal truth about family relationships: they can be blooming hard work. It’s also an exploration of how we hold back the things we want to say and let old wounds fester, or leave it far too long to air what we’re truly feeling deep down inside. Harold is an artist and a bit of a prick, but he does love his kids in his own weird way (like many creative people, he’s self-obsessed). “I have to think he was a genius, otherwise he’s just a prick,” Danny sums up at his father’s art exhibition, having slugged down a few whiskies and popped one of his bro’s uppers. The scene turns from celebration of a respected but relatively unknown sculptor into a full-on therapy session. After his own string of films for the VOD service, this Netflix original is a reminder Sandler can still deliver the goods.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
Photo: Netflix / Atsushi Nishijima