Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Robbie Ryan
WRITER: Noah Baumbach
MUSIC: Randy Newman
“The Meyerowitz Series (New and Selected)” is an intriguing film from writer and director Noah Baumbach. It tells the story of three siblings who all have to deal with their father’s influence in their lives and the demons it has produced over the years. Through this story, they may discover that they have more to offer themselves and each other.
When we meet Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman), he is an insufferable human being. Harold is a headstrong artist and a retired New York City professor who has been married multiple times and has strained relationships with all of his kids. One of them is Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler), his oldest son that can never seem to get his father’s acceptance. Either in spite of or due to this lack of affection, Danny is always there for his dad and loves his father’s studio and art.
Ben Stiller plays Matthew, his youngest son who has gone off to be a successful accountant all the way in Los Angeles. He always received the affection of Harold, but Matthew has also felt the disappointment of his father due to not being an artist and has literally put distance between himself and his family. Finally, there is Harold’s daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), a woman who was pretty much completely ignored by Harold.
Throughout the movie, we follow all three children after Harold ends up in the hospital with brain damage after a fall from a few months prior. The three siblings stay with each other and soon begin to grow closer to one another while also dealing with their demons. It is a film about escaping your parent’s past and desires and finding happiness in your own journey.
The true revelation of the film is Sandler as the suffering Danny. He has a great relationship with his daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten), yet he still wants his father’s love. Sandler succeeds on every level and I truly felt bad for Danny but also cheered him on due to the relationship he has with his daughter and his quest to escape his father’s shadow.
Thanks to performances in films such as “Punch Drunk Love” and “Reign on Me”, I’ve always known that Sandler was a good actor. Unfortunately, he never seemed confident enough to step out of his usual comedic routine to take more chances. I hope that this film is the start of the next chapter in Sandler’s career and that he chooses to do more movies such as this one.
That’s not to say that the rest of the cast isn’t great as well. Stiller turns in a riveting turn as Matthew, someone that is just annoyed that he has to even deal with his father and claims that he is over his own past demons. We learn differently, of course, and there is one scene at an art show that I don’t want to spoil here, but I’ll just say that the scene is worth watching the film for all by itself.
Finally, there is Hoffman as Harold and all Hoffman has to do is show up and he’s already giving you a great acting experience. Throughout the first act, we learn and understand why the three children are screwed up. As each of them try to talk to him, he is so self-absorbed that he just keeps on going with his own train of thought and we see his own misery leak onto his kids.
The movie is a genuine family drama with a razor sharp script. Despite some unusual choppy moments with the editing here and there, Baumbach is mostly confident in his direction. Even more successful is the impressive cast he has assembled, making this a movie that is definitely worth checking out.