The following is a review of The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Directed by Noah Baumbach
Adam Sandler is a really great actor, when he wants to be one. Every seven or eight years it seems like Sandler lands a role with which he manages to wow even his biggest critics. Normally, when I watch a new Sandler Netflix-film, I am greeted with lazy attempts at humor that sometimes becomes downright offensive in films like The Do-Over and The Ridiculous Six.
But The Meyerowitz Stories is a different beast altogether. I’d probably still say his work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love is his best performance — but what he does in The Meyerowitz Stories almost tops it. It is an impressive and authentic performance that I adored.
In Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Adam Sandler plays Danny Meyerowitz, and we are first introduced to him as he’s trying to park in New York City. Danny is moving in with his stubborn father, Harold Meyerowitz (played by Dustin Hoffman), and Harold’s newest wife, Maureen (played by Emma Thompson).
The film gives us a peek into the lives of the dysfunctional Meyerowitz family, which includes Danny and his two siblings: the very successful Matthew (played by Ben Stiller), who just happens to be Harold’s favorite child, and Harold’s often-neglected daughter, Jean (played by Elizabeth Marvel).
“Maybe… Maybe I need to believe my Dad was a genius, because I don’t want his life to be worthless. And if he isn’t a great artist, that means he was just a prig.”
Their father, Harold Meyerowitz, is a retired and, according to those closest to him, underappreciated artist who has managed to raise three damaged children. Harold is not just iron-willed and somewhat self-absorbed. He, like the entire film, seems to almost forget his daughter whenever he thinks of his family, and is so obsessed with one of his sons that his computer password is ‘Matthew.’
Two large sections, or chunks, of The Meyerowitz Stories are named after Harold’s two sons, who are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Harold’s favorite son, Matthew, doesn’t know how to become close with his son and is constantly frustrated by his father’s insufferable oddities, while Danny has a good relationship with his daughter — Eliza (played by Grace Van Patten), a young film student — and takes care of his father when called upon.
Jean, on the other hand, is largely ignored by everyone in her family. Seemingly no one in the family grasps what she’s doing with her life, and even her brothers seem to have ignored her troubles as Matthew at one point screams that he and Danny were treated awfully by Harold, but that Jean wasn’t — which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The lack of attention paid to Jean is also one of my only two problems with the film. Although Baumbach is smart enough to point out how little attention is paid to her by putting the title of her section in the film in parenthesis — (Jean’s Story) — that doesn’t excuse the fact that her problems are mainly used to bring Danny and Matthew closer to each other.
While I enjoyed most of the witty editing choices, my other big issue with the film is the way some sections in the latter half of the film fade to black thus adding up to a not-so cohesive final section of the film.
“And $35 for a salmon? Do you get the salmon to blow you for that price?”
But, mostly, The Meyerowitz Stories tells a relatable story about dysfunctional families, sibling rivalries, and the unhappiness of the people that might be perceived to have been elevated by privilege. I was particularly touched by Sandler and Stiller’s work here, but every actor and actress in here brings it.
Adam Sandler might be surprised to learn that The Meyerowitz Stories made me laugh harder than I have in any of his films from this decade. I genuinely wish Sandler would consider actually trying to do more serious work like what he does in this dramedy, which may be Netflix’s strongest and most rewatchable feature film yet.
9 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen