When I first heard about The Meyerowitz Stories, the latest film starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, (of all people) it was at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Yes, this little indie that could was nominated for the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award a film could take home, even more so than an Oscar.
Believe it or not, The Meyerowitz Stories is one of the better films I’ve seen in 2017. It’s certainly the funniest, and the laughs are actually mostly dialogue driven, with lots of gut-busting subtle humor. The heart of the film lies with its central characters, the Meyerowitz family. Danny (Adam Sandler) is a musically talented, yet off key father to an eighteen your old daughter, Eliza. Danny has a halfway decent relationship with his step-sister, Jean, (Elizabeth Marvel) who has more or less been a loner for the better part of her adult life.
Of course, we couldn’t have two “outsiders” as siblings and leave it at that, we also have the “successful” one, Matthew (a remarkable Ben Stiller). Matthew is a stoic businessman. not coming off to have much empathy about, well, anything when we first meet him a half hour into The Meyerowitz Stories. This causes conflict amongst the siblings as their less than perfect father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman) falls ill.
The Meyerowitz Stories does what many films attempt, but usually fails to achieve, unlikeable characters that you fall in love with. Sandler’s unpredictable and depressed Danny is a much needed subdued dramatic performance from Sandler, with the comedic elements being some of the best delivery in the actor’s career. The relationship with his daughter is sincere and believable, and the constant struggle of approval of his father struck an emotional chord with me personally that was just a pleasure to witness.
However, it’s Sandler’s chemistry (or lack thereof) with Stiller”s better than stepbrother, Matthew, that is the anchor which holds the movie together. There is a clear distance between the two, which develops into something quite sincere as the story plays out. Both share moments of vulnerability that feels both natural and rewarding, resulting in some of the best performances the two actors have ever achieved.
With all of the talent bringing their A-game, it’s easy to oversee Elizabeth Marvel’s mesmerizing performance as the socially awkward and introverted, Jean. The movie is broken into parts, featuring the main and supporting characters having their time to be fleshed out. Jeans story is a conversation with her two step-siblings, expressing how she feels the same torment from her father as they do. Only Jean deals with it in a much different way, saying how taking care of their sick dad is simply “the right thing to do,” which brings the story together for its final and emotional third act.
Oh yeah, I almost forget to mention Dustin Hoffman as the humbly imperfect, Harold. Hoffman brings a sense of utter distaste to the role, while also grounding the character in reality when it comes to being a parent. His relationship with his children are all different, and treating them differently growing up has caused them to react indifferently towards his sudden illness. With the realistic nature and tone director, Noah Baumbach tells the story in, Harold’s faults are also what make him, well, human. There is not ultimate father figure or a source of constant approval for the siblings in question. However, through great storytelling and an outstanding flow of humor truly makes The Meyerowitz Stories one of the best films I’ve personally seen in 2017,