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There’s nothing more entertaining to watch than a dysfunctional family. The drama, the arguments, the conflict and the hilarity all contribute to a genre of film that, overall, isn’t hard to hold your attention. Noah Baumbach’s recent Netflix dramedy, The Meyerowitz Stories, definitely does not skimp on family drama, nor should it.
The Meyerowitz Stories follows the estranged Meyerowitz family: Danny (Adam Sandler) the unemployed son, Matthew (Ben Stiller) the successful son and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) the forgotten daughter, are all the children of Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) a pretentious and retired sculptor. Already off to a great start as far as dysfunctional families go.
Adam Sandler. A name that often brings with it thoughts of mediocre and slightly offensive comedies that people watch once and then forget about until they are then repeated on TV. A man who is the most overpaid actor in Hollywood, but doesn’t really have anything in the last decade to show for it. A man who, also, was the standout in this movie.
As far as comedies go, this has its moments but lingers more around the drama borderline. Which is why the performance of Adam Sandler is so surprising. He doesn’t carry the laughs in this film; instead, he brings a realness and sobriety to the otherwise overwhelming world of the Meyerowitz clan. He’s shouty, sweary and has dubious facial hair, but he plays his role as the recently divorced father so convincingly that you actually begin to forget that it is, in fact, Adam Sandler.
His brother, played by Ben Stiller, is the epitome of the favourite sibling. He has all of his father’s attention and all of his time. However, this results in Stiller having to shout for most of the film. Arguing with his dad seems to be his favourite thing to do, but this is what makes his character so relatable. All of his dad’s expectations are piled on top of his shoulders because he is the one that could, most feasibly, reach them.
Stiller plays a bit of a flat character. Some exploration of his personality is there, but only at the end of the film does his character start to shine through. Most of his character flaws are brushed over and then forgotten, but his tearful speech at the end of the movie makes you realise just how talented Ben Stiller actually is.
Dustin Hoffman as Harold Meyerowitz is the passive-aggressive, shouty and judgemental father that is a stereotype in these dysfunctional family dramas. He is mean without realising he is mean, but also mean when he means to be. He is also damaged, broken and self-conscious. He just wants people to be proud of him.
The film itself is really well made. The cinematography and editing are hilarious when they need to be, but pared back when necessary. The story can be plodding in areas, and sometimes can start stories that never round off, but these details are not detrimental to the main film.
This is a story of family, and how family is always there. Even if you may not have that much of a connection with all of them, and you may argue and you may, sometimes, find it very hard to get along with them, they’re a constant in your life. This film starts with the stereotypical dysfunctional family and ends as a thank-you letter to every family member. Even though they aren’t perfect, they love each other and support each other.
Even though it isn’t the best dysfunctional family film, The Meyerowitz Stories is a dramedy that makes you laugh, makes you feel shocked, and makes you empathise. A movie with compassion and a selfish need to make everyone love it. This is family drama at its finest.