The Meyerowitz Stories

LetterboxD review link

I don’t remember entirely, but I recall a lot of critical and popular conversation around Adam Sandler’s acting when Punch-Drunk Love came out. I remember he received a lot accolades for taking on a serious role, working with a major director like PT Anderson. He’s done other work since that has toed this line, like Reign Over Me and Funny People, mostly with middling success. But The Meyerowitz Stories is probably the best argument for his best performance to date. There’s a tenderness and fragility on display here, along with his patented high-highs, that works quite well. Surrounded by great performances by Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel, Sandler does well enough to stand on his own.

There’s an ethos that I love about the Simpsons (the TV show probably most responsible for my sense of self as a young man) which shows how, over and over again, Homer, Marge and the family commit to each other. No matter what trouble they get into, no matter how much they destroy each other, they’re committed to each other. That same ethos is present in this film. It is a philosophy that I had a hard time embracing as a younger person, but in my adult years, it is one of the ideas I believe in most. You can’t give up on family. No matter how trying and difficult. No matter how passive-aggressive (or actually aggressive) there’s something morally rewarding about trying to make it work. And like Homer Simpson, there’s something particularly difficult about dealing with fathers who lack self-awareness or worse, are too self involved.

Anyway, The Meyerowitz Stories is a film about all of this. But it is also funny, fast-paced, well constructed and well executed. Baumbach, coming back to the modern family for the first time since The Squid and the Whale, is a sharp observer of familial relations, ambition, compromise and how art can supplant religion as an organizing force for some people’s lives. I look forward to seeing more of his work in this vein for years to come.