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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

New York is the city of a million stories. “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” has a handful of them. (Cheesy opening? Yeah, but I’m owning it.)

Writer/director Noah Baumbach’s slice-of-life tale of a blended family whose patriarch is an aging retired college professor and artist named Harold (Dustin Hoffman) is one of those that has the feeling of what was intended to be a stage production turned into a feature film. With a lot of rapid-fire dialogue and not much movement within each of its scenes, it is a film that requires a commitment from its audience to stay with it and focus. It boasts an all-star cast including Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel, and Ben Stiller as Harold’s children, Emma Thompson as his current wife, Candice Bergen as one of his ex-wives (and Stiller’s character’s mother), Judd Hirsch as one of Harold’s good friends and fellow artists, and appearances by Adam Driver, Sigourney Weaver, and more. Given all of this, I am still not willing to say that this is a great film by any stretch of my imagination.

Told through the lenses of each of Harold’s children, and even a segment with his granddaughter (and Sandler’s character’s daughter, played by newcomer Grace Van Patten), there is sophistication to the script (also done by Baumbach) that matches the upper-crust of New York that it represents which fits well. There are also some great performances here, especially when it comes to Stiller, Marvel, and Sandler. Yes, I said “Sandler”. With the number of misses that he has tended to have in recent years, this performance as the oldest of the kids who still seems to be trying to find his way while taking care of the family he has left is one of his strongest dramatic turns that I have seen in his career. His chemistry with the other two is simply spot-on, and his work with Hoffman here (who is a pipe and a hat away from being the real-life interpretation of the sea captain on “The Simpsons”) is nothing short of brilliant. Marvel as the disturbed daughter made me completely not see her character from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and even moreso took me by surprise that she is who she is. Even the ancillary characters do a good job enhancing what is going on in the main story, so none of this are where my sticking points come in.

For me, this just never really seemed to have that “wow” moment that takes a story like this to that next level. Granted, this was still better than Baumbach’s previous disaster of a narrative in “Mistress America,” but he is still chasing films like his lauded “Kicking and Screaming” and “The Squid and the Whale”. As good as the performances are here, they just don’t elevate a script when the mechanism to elevate it simply isn’t there.

Again, this is not the worst film of this year (any year where a Terrence Malick film exists will not have to worry about THAT), and at this point it is not even in my bottom half of 2017, but if you are looking for an entertaining film about family, aging, and questions we eventually don’t want to face, I would suggest last year’s “The Hollars,” which is a much better and more entertaining version of that story.

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