Your weekly streaming pick goes back to Netflix. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is an original film by the streaming giant. An interesting glimpse into the life of an estranged family. Each member has their own quirks and their own story. This makes for a true performance piece with some great actors. Yes, I include Adam Sandler in that.
The narrative for the Meyerowitz Stories is non-traditional. It does follow a three act structure. The characters are all pretty well developed, and it does have a solid conclusion. With getting only bits of everyone’s stories the audience must handle filling in the gaps.
Noah Baumbach has made a portfolio piece for each of the actors and strung them together with a solid enough narrative. Baumbach is a skilled writer/director. His resume is full of independent dramas and small budget movies. His movies deliver commanding performances. At times his movies can feel a little bit like stroking his writer’s ego; but the quality makes this offense forgivable.
Dustin Hoffman leans into his age and delivers a memorable performance. He plays Harold, the family’s uneven patriarch. Showing clear favoritism among his children without realizing it he is the main reason who his family is so distant from each other. Hoffman is an artist who got in his own way. He never quite realized his full potential and is bitter at the world about it.
Adam Sandler delivers his best performance since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love (2002). Sandler’s turn as Danny Meyerowitz proves that he is a truly talented actor. It’s sad that he often chooses not to be. Being a doofy idiot is far too profitable for Sandler to really try all that often. His dramatic performances are truly his best.
Ben Stiller, another man known for comedies, also delivers a dramatic performance. It may be that Stiller’s role wasn’t as good as Sandler’s. It may be that audiences are a bit more used to seeing Stiller in a dramatic position. It may actually be that Sandler straight out acted Stiller. Whatever the cause, Stiller’s performance fades fast after the movie ends.
Elizabeth Marvel who is generally a strong supporting actor isn’t given a whole lot to do. Marvel plays Jean. A broken down woman and an introvert. The sister of Stiller and Sandler’s characters. She gets a great moment toward the end of the movie but otherwise her character is shoved to the background. This isn’t uneven writing or a bad performance by any means. Marvel sacrifices a more front facing and noticeable role to deliver a great performance that strikes at the right moment.
The ‘selected’ part of the title rings true. At times the title card way to change the focus of the movie is a bit jarring. It takes you out of the current story and jams you into another. The stories are, of course, interconnected. The feel, direction, and narrative are the same. The disorientation doesn’t last long. A smooth flowing narrative is always preferred.
The segments of the movie are enjoyable but when it ended it felt like a bunch of shorts that came out of the same script. The same script with gaps of missing story. As time went on I kept thinking about the actor’s performances. These performances alone make Meyerowitz worth it. This is perfect for those who love seeing actors at the top of their craft. Unfortunately the parts are definitely greater than the whole.