6.5/10 Noah Baumbach feels like a writer/director who runs a marathon and is strong for the first 23 miles but never quite makes it across the finish line. This film is yet another example of that. There are some great elements in this film that really work. The drama within the personal relationships between the siblings and each other in addition to between their father and step mother feels extremely real, like Baumbach has personally lived through similar circumstances. The actors are all on top of their game with Ben Stiller surprisingly being the scene stealer. When Adam Sandler does serious acting, I have never been disappointed and he continues to impress here. Elizabeth Marvel is completely controlled and although her performance is less showy, she is the perfect balance between the bombastic step brothers. The cinematography is subtle but impressive without sticking out and drawing too much attention to itself. Randy Newman’s score sets the melancholy tone and the end credits song that he sings is especially moving. The tight rope walk between comedic and dramatic that Baumbach pulls off is very impressive. That being said, this film has some of the same shortcomings that Baumbach’s other films have. For example, a subplot with Sandler’s daughter (played by the very talented Grace Van Patten) has her making very odd and pornographic students films as a freshman in college and having all of her relatives viewing her films where she is naked came off as very creepy. It was reminiscent of the young boy spreading her sperm all over the place in “The Squid and the Whale” where it didn’t do much to serve the story except add a very creepy layer to what could have been a heartwarming story. There were also some strange and ineffective editing choices near the end of the film that felt like the editor got lazy near the end of post-production and just phoned it in. The layout of having random sentences on screen and breaking up stories by showing character names in black text against a white background felt more like a gimmick than anything that served the film. The film doesn’t ever feel slow or boring, yet I couldn’t help feeling that a few short scenes or moments could have been cut because they simply didn’t have a strong reason to be there. It was nice seeing some actors Baumbach has worked with in the past pop up in brief cameos and I would definitely place this in the upper echelon of Baumbach’s filmography, of which I am not a huge fan but he seems to have been improving in recent years. The family dynamics and its realism is where the film comes alive and the actors convey their range of emotions very well. If you are into intimate family dramedies, you will definitely get something out of this Meyerowitz Story (New and Selected).
#HaroldAndFlawed / #GrownUps3 / #RemarriageStory / #PainMan / #DannyMcPhee / #RandyNewmanAndSelected