NYFF Film Review: ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’ Is Top Notch Baumbach with a Standout Ben Stiller

2017 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: In a career that has spanned the likes of such indie classics like “The Squid and the Whale” and “Frances Ha,” Noah Baumbach taps into his inner Woody Allen, while blending in a sense of Wes Anderson (who he often collaborates) in his newest feature “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).”  Boasting an impressive cast with memorable performances, Baumbach explores the culture of an artistic New York family that feels all too real and even more relevant.  It could be one of his finest outings as a director yet.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” tells the story of an estranged family, the Meyerowitz’s.  When they gather together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father, they confront much of their problems both in the family and in life.

As the musically inclined Danny, Adam Sandler delivers his best performance since Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love.”  With roles that have failed to challenge him for decades, the Golden Globe-nominated star seems to find much of the quirky intricacies of Danny.  He’s a down on his luck, just recently divorced, stay at home Dad, whose daughter is leaving for college.  He, for the first time, is confronting his future without a steady purpose, and attempting to confront the questions plaguing his relationship with his whimsical father Harold (played exquisitely by two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman).

There are typical Sandler quirks that pop up during the film, such as the notorious “Sandler Yell,” which doesn’t seem to fit in with the world around him.  Perhaps taking on more roles like this will allow him to not only get better as an actor but discover potential that he hasn’t tapped into as of yet.

Danny’s story is paired with an emotionally touching and charged take of his half-brother Matthew played brilliantly by Ben Stiller.  In what is bar none, his most realized and affecting performance of his career, Stiller lands every note, building up to a moment that will both surprise and move you, possibly to tears.  Matthew’s upbringing is different.  While Danny and his sister Jean (played humorously by Elizabeth Marvel) were neglected by their father following their parent’s divorce, Matthew received all of his attention.  Never living up to the idea of a great artist, Stiller finds the revolution in which Matthew finds himself in his mid-life while his own parenting and marriage are struggling.

You’d have to go back to 1997’s “Wag the Dog” to find another Dustin Hoffman performance this engaging or invigorating.  Funny and lively, he’s having the time of his life as Harold, an artist trying to capture his own moment in history with a skewed perception of his contributions.  Academy Award winner Emma Thompson kills in minimal screentime as Maureen, Harold’s alcoholic third wife.  Remember her stint at the Golden Globes when presenting?  That Emma shows up and she’s a ball of fun.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” has joy and richly developed characters.  Tangible in actions, they seem to find their place among our cinematic minds even if their behavior sometimes is outlandish.  Baumbach even manages to tap into Alexander Payne for one extended “brotherly quarrel.”

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” hits theaters on Oct. 13 and will stream on Netflix simultaneously.  

GRADE: (★½)

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MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |