The Meyerowitz Stories
- Katherine McLaughlin
- 23 May 2017
Cannes 2017: Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller star in Noah Baumbach's compelling family portrait
Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) shuffles along the sidewalks of New York to an agitated beat. He's angry at the world for not recognising his art, despairing at his alcoholic wife Maureen (Emma Thompson) and unable to properly bond with his three adult offspring: Danny (Adam Sandler, ably balancing rage and concern), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel, whose surname aptly describes her performance). Noah Baumbach's dysfunctional family portrait is tremendously insightful and painfully funny as it traces the transition of its members from their various vantage points as they come together to celebrate and commiserate.
There are a number of brilliantly awkward meals and private gallery viewings that eke out the full comical value of the love-hate relationship between parent and child. Equally Baumbach inserts genuinely tender moments, especially in scenes between Danny and his film school student daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten). The pair joyfully sing along to original piano compositions with no hint of irony. These personal tunes sit alongside a timeless score composed by Randy Newman that fuses past and present together wonderfully. Though these robust and complex characters rarely take the time to really listen to one another they are always striving to connect.
Although it has much in common with Baumbach's acerbic The Squid and the Whale with competitiveness again a key theme, there are also noticeable parallels with Frances Ha. Harold and his family all wander across the same pavements and crossings to their own distinct rhythm and cinematographer Robbie Ryan captures their unease with flair. Jean is seen literally retreating into the wilderness at one point when a painful memory resurfaces. As the two brothers spar over their father's affection and respect, Jean's place in the fold becomes apparent. It's both hilarious and deeply unsettling.
Baumbach's sharp and honest reflection on family matters and the passing of time keenly gauges how reality is sometimes skewed or hidden to fit inside a digestible template. It's his most mature work to date.
Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2017. Released on Netflix from Fri 13 Oct.