Here's a mid-life crisis I can live with.
Director: Mike White (Year of the Dog)
Cast: Ben Stiller (Zoolander 2), Austin Abrams (The Kings of Summer)
Runtime: 1 hr 41 min
by John DeSando
“We aren’t poor.” Melanie Sloan (Jenna Fischer)
In those three words, the titular character’s wife succinctly parses his midlife crisis: Brad (Ben Stiller) needs to smell the roses, to see that what he has in his upper-middle class comfort is more than most could hope for. Brad’s Status is a text book exposition of a man’s midlife crisis at 47 years old.
It’s not pretty when he embarrasses his brainy son, Troy (Austin Abrams), at a Harvard interview situation by pushing the admissions staff too hard. Besides that obnoxious parent-at-interview motif, which I have witnessed as a Georgetown alumni interviewer, Brad is struggling, mostly in voice-over narration, an unhealthy envy of his buddies who have entered into the 1% inner sanctum of fame and wealth.
A Tufts grad that started his own non-profit, Brad needs a jolt to realize how good his life really is. Buds like noted author and TV star Craig (Michael Sheen) prove to have their own issues that don’t show up in the media. Too obvious a compensation from writer/director Mike White, nonetheless it is axiomatic that “the grass is greener on the other side.” Will Brad learn this lesson after thinking about his accomplished wife and son? You can pretty much guess.
Although I could not sympathize with Stiller’s previously solipsistic hero in Greenberg, his Brad makes mid-life sense to me as he gains audience sympathy over his self-centered obsessions. Xavier Grobet’s cinematography, focused as it is on close ups of Brad, does very little else to further visually this universal experience, and generally none of the shots are as remarkable as the simple takes of the two coeds' classical playing in the college orchestra.
Stiller should be nominated; no recent actor has shown such authentic anguish at that certain time of life when you can accept the goodness of the life you have led or drive yourself into an unpleasant status.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com