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Brad's Status transcends its familiar premise with insightful observations and affecting interplay between stars Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams.
Brad's Status transcends its familiar premise with insightful observations and affecting interplay between stars Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams.
All Critics (165)
| Top Critics (32)
| Fresh (132)
| Rotten (33)
It is an introspective and downbeat film, but forceful and personal, with excruciating and all-too-real moments of mortification. And it can be weirdly moving, almost out of nowhere.
We knew this guy was a forgettable jerk not worth our time five minutes into this movie.
Has there ever been a face more suited to male anxiety than Ben Stiller's?
Stiller is in prime form here, smart and self-pitying in a way that's quintessentially his own.
Although the pacing is uneven, the end result satisfies. The movie may be marketed to art house audiences but it has something to say to (and about) us all.
This is the rare mainstream film that addresses the complexities of real life. "Brad's Status" may motivate you to question your own.
One of those films that makes you feel bad when you exit the theater.
Brad's Status is a fashionable, digestible, imitation bootleg of real despair. It's lip service to agony. Why bother?
There's little compelling about the drama in regards to Brad's Status. Brad appears to not have any concept of how minor and inconsequential his problems are.
Brad's Status is a smart, thoughtful examination of privilege that doesn't endorse the viewpoint of Stiller's disaffected character
Brad's Status is more than a little didactic, but it has greater value in the less pre-determined, more emotional fringes of its story.
Brad is so tedious that one spends the whole movie waiting for him to get his comeuppance. And sure enough, a secondary character comes in halfway through and reads him for filth.
Drama is one of the hardest genres to pull off because it's near impossible that the core message will hit everyone the same way. Sometimes a film can get caught up in its message, leaving the characters in the dust, while it can also be the exact opposite. I feel as though Brad's Status falls somewhere in the middle. Filled with solid performances and very broad outlooks on life, there is a lot to unpack here in terms of emotional storytelling, but it's all pretty muddled in retrospect. Here's why I believe the message itself is deserving of a watch, but the film as a whole is really quite annoying.
This film follows Brad (Ben Stiller) as he takes his son Troy on a trip to Boston. Realizing that his son is actually smart enough to have the chance to get accepted into schools like Harvard, the bonding between them sprouts from there. This really is a character study of Brad, and how he thinks that the world itself hasn't given him enough and has rejected him as a person. Being jealous and thinking that all of his friends from the past are all wealthier and better off than he is, this very quickly becomes a slightly depressing story.
For the majority of this film, you listen to the narration of Ben Stiller as he spews his thoughts and complaints about life. The arc that his character goes through is worth it and the overall message is good enough to be effective for many viewers, but the journey itself is really quite annoying. 80% of this movie is a narration of Brad complaining about how he's not successful enough and how he wishes his life was more exciting when he should really be just enjoying everything that he's actually been given. It almost seems like a fantasy at times, because his thoughts are pretty ridiculous at times. That being said, Ben Stiller really commits himself to this performance.
Stiller hasn't been this powerful in quite a few years, which is easily the biggest takeaway from Brad's Status. Many other actors would've felt like they were reading from a script, not getting enough emotion across and seeming like an annoying character. As aforementioned, Brad is definitely that annoying character, but Stiller is what takes him to another level. The part that really bugged me when looking back on this film, is the fact that a slight script change could've made this one of my favorite films of the year.
The screenplay itself is fine, but the fact that it feels repetitive could've easily been fixed. From complaining about not having the sex life he desires, to not owning his own plane, company, or mansion, each scene seemed to be a vessel for Brad to find something else to dislike about himself. The irony behind this review is the fact that my one complaint about this film trumps my thoughts about everything else because it's such glaring issue to me. There really is a lot to like about Brad's Status hidden under the annoyance of the presentation itself, so it's a shame in my opinion.
In the end, Brad's Status is a very solid, yet simple premise that may have made me tear up in a few instances, but the way this story is presented is very one-sided until the third act. I really enjoyed watching this character transform throughout the film, but the message can be seen from a mile away and I felt like I was always one step ahead of the film. If you can see through the predictability and annoying aspects of this film, I can give it a mild recommendation, because the final act is satisfying if you were able to bear the main character complaining about everything. Brad's Status is a great message, hidden in a much weaker overall movie.
Brad's Status is the kind of movie one wishes were a person so it could be given a wedgie. It is the second movie this year to feature Ben Stiller dealing with middle age and daddy issues, but, absent Noah Baumbach's dark humor, it barely holds a candle to the already less than stellar The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Stiller has the petty, insecure schmuck schtick down pat from decades of mediocre films, so this movie was made for him to star. Well, to be fair, it was made for him to mope around on screen while his constant, insipid voice over narration rambles off every whim and rumination that passes through his bland head. It would be funny if they actually played it for what it is, a pathetic underachiever who is too much of a coward to be the horrible person that he wants to be. There are always glimmers of him being relatable, however, and it's annoying that the film makers want us to empathize with that sentiment. Wishing for your wife's parents to die so you can inherit their money is hardly endearing in the context of the film, it's not funny, and it serves as just the first exhibit in the cringe gallery of Brad's mid-life crisis. In one interaction, a young woman tries to drive home to him that most of his problems are somewhat trivial in comparison to actual suffering, and he seems to process it to some degree. Yet, he doesn't really change, and he continues to be wallow in his self-imposed misery even during the cheap existential epiphany he has of crying during an orchestral swell. As a cautionary tale, there are no great lessons to be taken away from this, and it's feeble attempts at subtle humor hardly ever land.
Writer/director Mike White (Chuck & Buck, School of Rock) has made a movie meant for the purposes of entertaining about a man who seethes with jealousy from the first frame and who reminds us and, more specifically, men of a certain age that time has or is running out. This isn't exactly the best way to get an audience who likely paid to see your movie on your side, but with the endearing presence of Ben Stiller serving as the conduit for White's exploration of middle age the well-regarded writer, who is only directing his second feature film with Brad's Status, is able to perform such explorations with such balance and well-defined introspection that the film mostly transcends its rather grim implications and is able to become one easily appreciated for its reassurance. Leave it to White, who has always excelled at crafting these kinds of human, but uncomfortably so, stories to make this reassurance not in the form of our titular protagonist finding and/or achieving what he so greatly craves for the majority of the runtime, but for discovering and realizing things he may not have considered prior. It's all about perspective and White chronicles these ideas and themes through Stiller's main character by giving him an abundance of internal monologue, but does it more convincingly by having Brad take part in actions that provoke the progression of these thoughts. Never does Stiller's Brad feel like little more than a man complaining for the sake of complaining, but rather Brad is a guy who is having a real crisis of identity. It would be easy to dismiss Brad's Status as another of those middle-aged white guys having an existential crisis movies and that's because it is, but there is something to Brad's Status that helps it rise above those kinds of dismissive criticisms by being the movie that acknowledges it's about white people problems and owns up to it. Everyone has problems, some obviously vary in degree of severity and repercussion size, but everyone has problems and issues they have to deal with and to each and every person each of their individual problems are as real as anything else. Brad takes real issue with the fact he feels he's cut himself short in this single shot at life he's been given and while White is keen to writhe just about every perspective out of this base of an idea he can what Brad's Status ultimately does is provide a way to navigate feelings of inadequacies and jealousy while coming to the realization that because everyone has their own problems that those who make Brad feel inadequate or jealous likely aren't aware of as much because they have their own things they're dealing with that their social media doesn't show.
read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com
MIKE'S WHITE PRIVILEGE - My Review of BRAD'S STATUS (3 1/2 Stars)
It would be really easy to roll one's eyes at Mike White's midlife, white male crisis film, BRAD'S STATUS, but it's so well-made, so beautifully realized, so wonderfully performed, that it's better to just surrender to its many charmless charms. Yes, we've perhaps sat through enough "white privilege" movies to last a lifetime, (FALLING DOWN anyone? Any film where George C. Scott bellows?) but White seems acutely aware of what he's doing and frequently calls his character out on his unhealthy mindset.
Ben Stiller plays Brad, a Non-Profit Executive living in Sacramento with his loving wife Melanie (Jenna Fisher, charming but criminally underused as she literally phones in her performance) and their smart, composed, college-aged son Troy (Austin Abrams). Worried about how they're going to pay for Troy's tuition and endlessly comparing his life to those of his more financially successful college friends, Brad embarks on a tour of East Coast universities with Troy. It gives him plenty of time to feel bad about his life, told with an ample, perhaps too ample, amount of voiceover. It works here, however, because on the surface, Brad has a pretty great life, but his spirit seems to have died along the way. It's so easy to look at your friends' glorified Facebook lives and feel you're coming up short, and Brad seems paralyzed by it.
His friends include White himself, as a gay filmmaker whose home graces the cover of Architectural Digest, Luke Wilson as a hedge fund magnate who flies around in private jets, Jermaine Clement as a retired tech millionaire who lives an idle Maui life with his two girlfriends, and most prominently Michael Sheen as Craig Fisher, a Washington insider, TV pundit, and best-selling author,. In Brad's head, he's the failure of the group, and the proof is that he no longer gets invited to group events, such as White's lavish wedding.
Anyone, like me, who has ever sat alone at home on a Saturday night while looking at your friends' glamorous posts can identify with the sinking feeling Brad has that he no longer matters. Is it foolhardy? Probably, but it's also very human. The grass is always greener on the other side. The lives of others, however, are usually much more complex than what they publicly present.
Most of the film takes place during two college trips father and son take. They hit a snag when Troy misses his Harvard interview, snapping Brad into action to play "daddy/savior". He calls on his old friend Craig, who teaches at the school, perhaps to prove to someone/anyone that he matters, or maybe that he even exists. Yep, this movie hammers home, bluntly and perhaps too often, that Brad faces an existential crisis.
In lesser hands, BRAD'S STATUS would have been insufferable, but Mike White mines the discomfort, every minute feeling of hopelessness, every perceived slight, and allows Stiller to deliver an uncharacteristically measured, still performance. It reminded me of William Hurt's wonderful turn in THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, in that both seem almost emotionless on the surface, but every now and then they show a deep well of sadness or feeling underneath the facade. Stiller's moments, much life Hurt's fantastic smile at the very end, feel well-earned and well-wrought.
Despite not looking at all related, Stiller and Abrams play off of each other so perfectly. You believe Abrams' quiet observations about his father, his mortification when "Dad" insists on intervening. You get the feeling that Troy loves his father but has no idea how to get him out of his funk. Shari Raja excels as one of Troy's friends, a Harvard student who sees right through Brad. Their big scene together, while obviously providing the schematic counterpoint needed to let the audience know that Mike White knows Brad has champagne problems, works so well because Raja prevents her character from being too strident. It's the gentle wake-up call Brad needs.
Another surprise is Luke Wilson, who, with one brief scene, fills his character with reserves of feeling I haven't seen in him before. Clement, best known for his work on FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, gets a laugh just by the silly way he enjoys his carefree lifestyle. I wish White had given himself more to do, because his character, who is described as getting gayer as he gets more successful, would make for a great movie on its own. Sheen deftly navigates that thin line between being cluelessly humble bragging and condescending.
Mark Mothersbaugh contributes a tense, spare score which perfectly captures Brad's frame of mind. It's melancholy, twisted, and a great reminder of how unsettled Brad feels from start to finish. As a whole, White has upped his game as a director here. He's helped quite a bit by cinematographer Xavier Grobet's clean, unfussy work. I felt like we went on a complete journey with our title character. Nothing gets tied up into a little bow, but just like Stiller's precise performance, the film goes from A to C instead of railroading through the entire alphabet. It's not a grand film. It's small. But it deals with issue I suspect most people have come up against. Sometimes, that's enough to make for a thoroughly satisfying filmgoing experience.
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