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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Jan 3, 2018

It's Manhattan and the family is Jewish.You know the drill.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Grade: B+

Director: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale)

Screenplay: Baumbach

Cast: Adam Sandler (Sandy Wexler), Ben Stiller (Mitty)

Runtime: 1 hr 52 min

by John DeSando

Plant an academic-artistic Jewish-American family in contemporary Manhattan, and you have neurotic conversation, bruising relationships, and repentance all learned from Woody Allen if not for real. Even more than Woody’s endearing situations, this one is bloodier but more forgiving.

Noah Baumbach’s Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),a Netflix original,  is touchingly funny about two Meyerowitz sons, musician Danny (Adam Sandler) and financier Matt (Ben Stiller) celebrating their  mediocre-sculptor-professor father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), and their constant jockeying for position with him and themselves. It’s not a hilarious comedy, but the nerdy-New-Yorker motif shows it is still satisfyingly amusing.

Baumbach perfectly tunes us to Danny’s alienation from Dad and Matt’s clueless realization of his role as favored one. Danny’s opening sequence trying to find a parking spot in the East Village is an emblem of his consistent failures and the disintegration of the fractured family holding on to hopes about the deed for Dad’s apartment.

Most of what happens is off-center from the truth of things, as is probably true of most families whose perception of each other is skewered by family culture and parental politics. The dialogue is both banal and profound, just the way we all live except that few of us are Jewish or live in Manhattan, two invaluable elements that provide subtle hilarity. When feelings are exposed, the dialogue turns almost Eugene O’Neill-like.

Most touching about these stories, which are chapters partly devoted to the three males, are almost seamless revelations about the family and their unspooling in a leisurely but sometimes devastating way. About the daily dialogue, Baumbach can’t be bested, maybe except for Allen in his prime and Baumbach’s girlfriend, Greta Gerwig, whose wispiness is gone from Baumbach here, but all the better for this urbane grit:

“Brian and James, who you've met...” Matthew

“Very charming interracial, homosexual couple, and smart about the work. They were familiar with Gilded Halfwing [Harold’s prized but ignored sculpture].” Harold

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