Family dramedies are always fun to watch. We can mostly relate to a few of the things that spark drama in the family dynamic or we just find it funny to watch worst case scenarios happening à la Family Stone when Sarah Jessica Parker’s character drops the breakfast on the kitchen floor and is soaked in egg yolk. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) makes us realize why we love family dramedies so much. It includes funny as well as serious moments that make the Meyerowitzes seem so real.
The movie is divided into multiple parts – the stories of the family members.
It starts out with Danny (Adam Sandler), who, after he and his wife decided to separate, moves back in with his father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) for a short period of time. Danny has never really worked in his life before and gave up his passion for playing the piano and composing to raise his daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten), who is now a freshman in college. Living with Harold, however, is not easy, as he has a big ego. He also loves to remind people how unfair he has been treated as an artist, as his sculptures never were good enough to raise him to fame. His third wife, Maureen (Emma Thompson) is a hippie and drunk most of the time, even though she hasn’t had a drink in six months.
Danny and his sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) never had a close relationship with their father. Harold left the family when he remarried and had another son Matthew (Ben Stiller), who clearly is his father’s favorite. Harold oftentimes brags about Matthew’s success and how great he is. Despite his father’s affection for his half-brother, Danny always seeks a close relationship with his father. Unlike his sister who only takes care of her father when he is in the hospital because she is a “decent person.”
When Matthew comes to New York for a business meeting, he also meets up with his father. It is quite obvious how angry he is at Harold. Even though Harold always brags about Matthew, he doesn’t do so in front of said son, quite the opposite in fact.
Due to an aneurysm, which he got during a walk with his dog, Harold ends up in the hospital. His children take care of him during the time. It brings the siblings closer together, especially when the odds for Harold are not in his favor.
While The Meyerowitz Stories never really loses its humor, the movie is a tad too long to my liking. There were several moments towards the end where the movie could have (and should have) ended. Instead, it dragged on and on, which was a little unnecessary.
The cast, however, is excellent in depicting their respective roles.
We mostly know Adam Sandler as the funny and goofy kinda guy. While his character is definitely funny in the movie as well, he is also serious. You can see from the first moment that Danny just wants to be respected and loved by his father. It is a nice contrast to his funnier roles and shows what Sandler has to offer as an actor, especially when Danny’s anger and desperation shows. It was a solid performance of Sandler and it is what makes the movie worth to watch. The same goes for Ben Stiller, who was really good as Matthew and depicting the inner anger he feels towards his father, Harold.
Elizabeth Marvel as Jean is just hilarious. Even though you know that something must have happened to her that made her be so odd. She deliberately places herself in the background of everything, but never really appears boring and uninteresting. Plus, Marvel is hard to recognize at first. Jean is very different from the other characters she usually portrays, which makes her performance so utterly enjoyable.
Dustin Hoffman’s character Harold was probably the most annoying. He had such a big ego and only talked about himself that you just wanted him to shut up the whole time. Despite Harold being such a jerk, especially towards his children, he also has a more emotional side which Hoffman also portrayed convincingly.
Emma Thompson was a pure delight in the movie (as per usual). Maureen was definitely a character. Thompson just knows how to portray the crazy without making an utter fool of herself and the character at all. It definitely fit Maureen, who had a little alcohol problem, but it also never made fun of the seriousness of the problem as it never was a focus of the movie and Maureen had her good (and sober) sides as well.
The Meyerowitz Stories could have been a lot shorter in its length. It was, however, a delight to see all of these brilliant actors in roles that were different than the ones we usually see them in.
You can catch The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) during the London Film Festival. If you can’t make it to London in time, then Netflix will release the movie on October 13th.