Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Brad's Status

Brad's Status
Starring:
Ben Stiller, Jenna Fischer, Austin Abrams and Luke Wilson


Rated: R for language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: September 15, 2017 Released by: Amazon Studios

Ben Stiller (While We're Young, Greenberg) delivers on the title role in Mike White's touching new movie filled with its share of levity.

Brad's Status has the cynical deadpan approach of the director of Year of the Dog known for his scripts ranging from The School of Rock to The Good Girl, veering more towards conventional than peculiar. When it comes to the nature of a mid-life crisis and the rumination of success and failure around it.

The protagonist actually has a laudable management position in the Sacramento area with a sensible, sweet wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and overachieving musically-gifted 17-year-old son Troy (well-acted by Austin Abrams). The scribe has father and son learning a bit about each other on a college tour in New England in what initially appears to be like a typical Hollywood Stiller comedy filled with those roadblocks that propels the story, like Duplex or Envy.

Yet, there's something churning beneath the surface, especially in the key characters that makes it all worthwhile when Brad learns of what's become of some former college chums from social media posts. Michael Sheen's Craig has excelled as an author and D.C. figure very present on television. Luke Wilson's Jason is a hedge-fund honcho with a private plane easily appeasing his family, while Nick (White) is an accomplished director just wed, but never invited Brad. And, Billy (Jermaine Clement) has done so well in technology that an early Maui retirement has kept him close to bikini-clad babes.

The series of conversations makes "Brad's Status" look beyond the narcissism and race associated with it that is addressed in a smooth but less confined production, as the blithe music from Mark Mothersbaugh underscores before an unanticipated emotional crescendo. A solid scene includes a get-together between Brad and Craig that Stiller and Sheen deftly handle. Key support in what exudes a certain sincerity and compassion while understanding empathy isn't easily earned is Troy's former classmate and now Harvard orchestral member Ananya (a comely Shazi Raya) who evinces an endearing precociousness.

It turns out White's foray, while not that edgy or ambitious, gets the job done with an able, finely shaded Stiller as ego and envy (with its fantasies) turns out to have an ingratiating place in a sub-genre that likely (and hopefully) will be further probed.

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