I am going to get two things right off my chest before I dive into Netflix’s THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED). First off, I don’t think Adam Sandler’s performance in this is Oscar worthy at all. It is a very good performance and easily his best since Punch Drunk Love, but I do not think it is Oscar worthy as many have been buzzing it is. Secondly, I am not a huge fan of Noah Baumbach. I think he is a talented filmmaker whose films are a little too quirky for my taste, and I haven’t really liked any of his films, maybe the closest being The Squid and the Whale. This film now beats that for me as his best work, even though I still cannot quite recommend the film. And it is mainly because of the second half of the film.
I don’t dislike Noah Baumbach at all. He does have a very good ear for dialogue and some of his scenes are engaging but he uses a lot of weird quirky moments and sight gags that take me out of the film and I have trouble that they would be in this universe that he has created. There are good sight gags and bad sight gags to be sure. And by sight gags, I’ll give you an example. While I love the movie Garden State, I can’t wait the part where Zach Braff is in that bathroom and walks near those sinks and the sinks just go off as we walks toward the exit. That part made absolutely no sense, so I consider it a bad sight gag. Another sight gag is when he has on that shirt some Aunt made for him and it matches the wallpaper, that I considered a good sight gag. This film has a person running a car into a tree for absolutely no reason, people weirdly running away from things, weird student films, and a bunch of other sight gags that took me away from the family drama story it was trying to tell.
However, the sight gags didn’t ruin the movie for me, it was mainly the second act of the film when Ben Stiller shows up and Dustin Hoffman’s character goes out of the picture for a little bit. Before I get into the first and second act of the film Another thing I don’t necessarily like about Noah Baumbach’s filmmaking is that he never really gives us a totally likable character. Adam Sandler’s character in this is the closest he has gotten to date. Now I know you can’t a have perfect character without flaws, but surely there can be more likable characters with them. The first half of the film is clear and concise, and I thought I would come out of this putting it on one of my top fifteen films of the year, singing Baumbach’s praises. But then we get to the second half…
***spoiler alert*** I am going to spoil something that happens to Dustin Hoffman’s character where it made me not like the second act all the much and the event took a lot of the film away for me. So if you don’t want to know, turn back now. Halfway thru the film Dustin Hoffman’s character, one of the interesting ones, goes into a coma for the rest of the film. I think taking the father out of the picture and having the family drama dynamic happen between the two brothers and the sisters was a big mistake on Baumbach’s part. I think the father could’ve been in it and it would’ve made a more well rounded family story ***end spoiler alert*** The film is about a family whose father (Hoffman) is having a grand art exhibit of his work and selling it all off. Adam Sandler’s character and his sister have been struggling with their relationship their entire life with Hoffman’s character, and don’t want his new girlfriend/wife (played by Emma Thompson) to sell off the house and don’t want their father to sell his work. Enter the half brother (played by Ben Stiller) who is basically the person who is arranging all of this stuff to be sold. And Ben Stiller’s character is always the one that Dustin Hoffman’s was proud of, etc. etc. etc.
Like I said, the movie has a strong first half but a very weak second. I explained why it is weak in the spoiler above. But there is a little more too it. The story gets extremely cliched when the spoiler event happens, and so does the dialogue. This “you are the favorite child, you are turning into your father” merry go round has been done before and I was disappointed that the promising dialogue unique first half was followed up with this. It picks up near the very end with the art exhibit and ***spoiler alert*** Sandler’s final confrontation with Dustin Hoffman ***end spoiler*** but it was already too late for me to recommend the film completely. Noah Baumbach enthusiasts are for sure to love this movie though.
There are a couple of other sweet things, I did like Adam Sandler’s relationship with his daughter at the beginning of the film, but then she goes off to college, makes awkward movies and has a weird confrontation with Sandler at the end that really didn’t make much since. So see, this film was like a complete see-saw with me. There are good things and bad things. Sometimes I can still recommend a film with those, and sometimes I can’t. This is one of the rare cases where I just can’t. I’m sorry Noah Baumbach, you haven’t won me over yet, but you are showing promise. At least better than Paul Thomas Anderson….yikes. But not as good as Wes Anderson with the quirky stuff. I have a feeling he could get there though.