(Winner of the Palm Dog Award to Einstein at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival) Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the story of a group of adult siblings who cope with their failings as they continue to live in the shadow of their famous father. The film is an exploration into family dysfunction as siblings all reunite to celebrate their father despite their own issues as they deal with the many faults of their father. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, Adam Driver, Candice Bergen, Judd Hirsch, Rebecca Miller, and Emma Thompson. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a witty yet riveting film from Noah Baumbach.
The film follows the lives of a family whose patriarch is a famous sculptor in the twilight years of his life while his fame and modest success has managed to overshadow his three children who all cope with their own disappointment towards themselves and not living up to his fame. It’s a film that takes a simple premise of family dysfunction as three adult siblings cope with their own lives as they all have to tend to their father who is starting to go through health issues but also unruly behavior in the way he reacts toward certain things. Noah Baumbach’s screenplay has a structure that does focus on these three siblings but also one of the sibling’s kids who has just entered college as it showcase not just trying to cope with the family patriarch but also themselves. The eldest in Danny (Adam Sandler) had just split up from his wife as he’s in New York City taking his 18-year old daughter Eliza to Bard where she is planning to study film while Danny is moving in with his father in Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) and hippy stepmother Maureen (Emma Thompson).
Also at the home is his younger sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) who is spending time to help out her father following an injury he suffered involving the dog while Maureen often goes away for seminars only to come back drunk. Danny and Jean are upset to learn that Maureen is planning to sell the family home as well as some of Harold’s art work with their younger half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) handling all of the finances. The unemployed Danny and Jean agree to create a retrospective at the Bard for Harold following an event for Harold’s old friend L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch) where Danny reunited with his childhood friend in Shapiro’s daughter Loretta (Rebecca Miller). Yet, that event would prompt some issues from Harold who is jealous towards Shaprio’s success claiming that Shapiro is mediocre compared to himself. The section on Matthew who visits New York City from Los Angeles where he is starting his own accounting business deals with the fact that his own success doesn’t really impress his father as it also causes resentment from his half-siblings whom he is convinced are damaged because of their father. When Harold becomes ill due to the injuries he had sustained some time earlier, the siblings and Eliza deal with the possibility of his impending death as the script also showcase dialogue where Baumbach often have characters talking over one another as it play into the dysfunction of themselves and relationship with one another.
Baumbach’s direction does have some style yet much of his compositions are straightforward as much of the film is shot on location in New York City as well as areas upstate with Sarah Lawrence College playing the role of Bard. Baumbach does use wide shots that do play into some of the locations but much of his compositions emphasize on close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction between the characters in the film. Notably as there are these elements that feel loose such as the first scene of Danny trying to find an open parking spot as he and Eliza are about to meet Harold as Baumbach also play into some of the awkwardness that is happening that includes some of the strange cuisine that Maureen has created. Baumbach’s approach to humor doesn’t play into these sexually-provocative student films that Eliza has created for her film class but also in the way the siblings react to a situation involving their father such as a scene of Matthew trying to go after a man who had mistakenly taken Harold’s coat.
Baumbach also plays into these moments of tension as it relates to Matthew’s absentee presence as it showcases a man who is still dealing with the fact that he has issues with his dad while his mother Julia (Candice Bergen) who was Harold’s third wife feels guilty over the way she treated Danny and Jean. The scenes in the second half as it relates to Harold being hospitalized and the idea of him dying does come into play where Jean does reveal a harrowing story of what happened to her as a teenager in relation to a friend of Harold a long time ago. It is followed by a moment of comical bonding for Danny and Matthew yet it would be followed by the two going to their father’s retrospective with Jean and Eliza as it showcases the pain that their father caused towards them. The film’s chapters emphasize on Danny, Matthew, Harold’s health, Jean’s story, and a final chapter on Harold’s fate but also the future that is Eliza. Yet, its ending is about these three siblings as they try to cope with their father’s shadow and how they would break out of it. Overall, Baumbach crafts a funny yet somber film about a family coping with the disappointments of their lives and the emotional chaos laid upon them from their father.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography to capture the autumn-like season of New York City and areas upstate including Massachusetts for the scenes at the hospital while maintaining some low-key lights for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Jennifer Lame does excellent work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts help play into some of the film’s emotionally-intense scenes along with some stylish cuts for Eliza’s student films. Production designer Gerald Sullivan, with set decorator Kris Moran and art director Nicolas Locke, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Harold and Maureen have in the city as well as Maureen’s country home upstate as it is filled with all sorts of things including the former’s art work. Costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi does amazing work with the costumes from some of the clothes that Eliza wears to the strange and hippie clothing of Maureen.
Special effects supervisor Jeff Brink and visual effects supervisor Andrew Lim do terrific work on some of the film’s minimal effects that mainly is featured in some of Eliza’s student films. Sound editor Paul Hsu does superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects that are created for Eliza’s student films but also in being straightforward of the way a gathering sounds like or how things sound in a location such as Matthew talking to his son on the phone while at a gas station. The film’s music by Randy Newman is wonderful with its low-key yet piano-based score that plays into some of the film’s melancholia with some string-based pieces in some of the dramatic moments while Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham provide some offbeat music pieces for Eliza’s student films. Music supervisor George Drakoulias creates a fun soundtrack that features music from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force, Cameo, Prefab Sprouts, and a few classical pieces and some original songs written by Adam Sandler and Noah Baumbach.
The casting by Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Sigourney Weaver as herself at Shapiro’s retrospective, Josh Hamilton as a friend of Loretta at the Shapiro retrospective, Danny Flaherty as Eliza’s boyfriend Marcus, Sakina Jeffrey as Dr. Malina Soni who watches over Harold, Gayle Rankin as the nurse Pam that also watches over Harold, Jerry Matz as an old friend of Harold in Paul whom Jean dislikes, Mickey Sumner as an attendee of Harold’s retrospective at Bard that Matthew becomes attracted to, Matthew Shear as Matthew’s colleague Gabe who tries to help out in handling Harold’s financial situations, and Adam Driver in a terrific one-scene performance as a client of Matthew’s in Randy who trying to get his dream apartment made despite the lack of finances he has. Candice Bergen is fantastic in her one-scene appearance as Matthew’s mother and Harold’s third wife Julia who hadn’t seen Harold in years while laments over the way she treated Danny and Jean feeling she only made things worse for them.
Judd Hirsch is excellent as L.J. Shapiro who is an old friend of Harold who is the embodiment of what Harold could’ve been if he wasn’t much of a prick yet Hirsch is someone who often praises Harold and his work feeling that Harold should’ve gotten more recognition. Rebecca Miller is brilliant as Shapiro’s daughter Loretta who is also an old childhood friend of Danny as the two reminisce about their childhood and being the children of artists as it prompts Danny into wanting to renew a relationship with her. Emma Thompson is amazing as Harold’s fourth wife Maureen as an alcoholic artist who often wears hippie-like clothing and cooks strange feasts as she is someone who believes she has a lot in handling Harold’s financial and health situations despite the fact that she’s kind of a flake though she does mean well.
Grace Van Patten is incredible as Eliza Meyerowitz as Danny’s daughter who is about to go to Bard to study film as she creates these sexually-provocative student films while lamenting over the idea of she can make it as an artist like her grandfather. Elizabeth Marvel is remarkable as Jean Meyerowitz as a woman who works for Xerox as she never showed any ambition while spending much of her time taking care of her father while eventually sharing a secret when she was a teenager that would shock her brothers and becoming a muse for Eliza. Dustin Hoffman is marvelous as Harold Meyerowitz as moderately-successful artist who laments over his lack of major success but also has this attitude where he thinks he’s better than many yet he is a fucking prick when it comes to his kids where he does make them feel terrible as it is one of Hoffman’s great performances.
Ben Stiller is great as Matthew Meyerowitz as the youngest of Harold’s three kids and half-sibling to Jean and Danny as someone who has found success through business and accounting while dealing with the fact that his success doesn’t mean much to his father and often brings a lot of insecurities towards his siblings whom he felt never had the chance to connect with. Finally, there’s Adam Sandler in a phenomenal performance as Danny Meyerowitz as the eldest of the three siblings as an unemployed man that was once a gifted musician but quit due to his insecurities as he copes with an unresolved limp and trying to take of his father as well as the lack of connection he has with his siblings as it is a somber yet charming performance from Sandler.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a sensational film from Noah Baumbach. Featuring a great ensemble cast with standout performances from Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, and Emma Thompson, insightful and witty observation on family dysfunction and art, gorgeous visuals, and a terrific music score from Randy Newman. It is a rich and compelling film that explores family dysfunction as well as the idea of a family who are dealing with man’s legacy who is filled with complications and their own shortcomings but also themselves as they try to find ways to be together. In the end, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a spectacular film from Noah Baumbach.
Noah Baumbach Films: Kicking and Screaming (1995 film) - Highball - Mr. Jealousy - The Squid & the Whale - Margot at the Wedding - Greenberg - Frances Ha - While We're Young - Mistress America - De Palma - Marriage Story - (White Noise (2022 film)) - The Auteurs #41: Noah Baumbach
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