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10/20/17

THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES - REVIEW


Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) was released on Netflix this month after a respectable performance at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film stars Dustin Hoffman as Harold Meyerowitz, an ageing sculptor whose children have grown up resenting him somewhat based on their divisive upbringing. Harold constantly confuses his own sons' childhoods since his art was and still is always at the forefront of his mind with his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) trailing far behind. Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller) are very different from each other as a result of Harold's lack of interest: the former is a down-and-out musician with a limp, the latter is a successful yet high-strung private wealth expert. The film follows this family as they are forced to reconnect when Harold suffers a significant health scare. These are "New and Selected" stories in that, while the film is mostly linear, it skips through portions of the main plot to give us a glimpse at what certain characters are up to. The point being to boil down this family's history and all the character dynamics to manageable chunks all set around the same time in order to then focus on key conversations and allow us to decipher the themes explored here.

As ever, Noah Baumbach offers no apologies for his characters' shortcomings which makes them feel very human. Similarly to how Jeff Daniels' patriarch was vain and selfish in The Squid And The Whale, Dustin Hoffman's Harold is also a flawed, equally clueless individual. Harold is much more charming, however, since his intentions are at least rooted in something positive and he does enjoy his sons' company, even if he has ruthlessly compartmentalised their roles. It's a fascinating study of a family in which the psychological damage has already been done but, even though some patterns will inevitably repeat, there is still hope for a better future. This is a very dialog-heavy film and that can be almost overwhelming, especially at the start, but the writing is so good that you'll quickly get used to its pace. The cast does a great job overall, even Adam Sandler who is both arguably the weakest part of the cast and plays one of the most likeable characters. With the exception of a couple of strange line deliveries and a few too many quick cuts after someone shouts, this is yet another indie triumph from Baumbach who has quickly defined himself as the new Woody Allen.

The Meyerowitz Stories, from its title and synopsis, may not sound like the most exciting film you'll see on a network like Netflix but it is well worth your time for the sharp, witty writing, the excellent performances and Noah Baumbach's reliably complex handling of human relationships.

Unsurprisingly good.

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