BFI LFF: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Noah Baumbach’s verbose comedy-drama The Meyerowitz Stories for Netflix is solid mainstream entertainment with a wry taste.

Still Life

by Alexa Dalby

The Meyerowitz Stories

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Very New York, very Woody Allen, The Meyerowitz Stories has Dustin Hoffman in a great performance as patriarch Harold Meyerowitz, a sculptor and retired academic, whose work, to his continuing discomfort, never brought him as much fame as his contemporaries. He’s married to selfish alcoholic Maureen (Emma Thompson), lives in the rambling home in Manhattan, and still dominating the lives of his adult children from previous marriages – sad dad Danny (Adam Sandler), his frumpy sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) and wealth management entrepreneur half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller).

Harold’s impossible, unpredictable behaviour is driving his family crazy. He’s fixated on having a retrospective exhibition of his work at the college where he taught, and where his granddaughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten) is a filmmaking student, to be organised by Danny and Jean. Meanwhile Ben has come to New York from Los Angeles where he now lives, to negotiate a sale of the family house and all Harold’s work. Rebecca Miller is Loretta, the daughter of Harold’s friend and more successful rival, and the object of divorced Danny’s interest.

On the surface, they are all dysfunctional individuals, each with their own dysfunctional family and making up the Meyerowitz dysfunctional family. A surprise turn of events involving Harold and the dramatic results of a head injury brings them all into the closest proximity for the longest time ever. Old hostilities and misconceptions are aired and unexpected new understandings emerge for the first time.

Baumbach tells the story through episodes seen from different protagonists’ perspectives, rounding out the relationship between the three siblings and making the family dynamic more complex. There’s plenty of humour, emotion and Jewish middle-class angst, and a resolution that may surprise.

Bruno, the poodle, was the winner of the Palm Dog award at the 70th Cannes Film Festival 2017.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) premiered in the Official Selection at the 70th Cannes Film Festival and screens as the Laugh Gala at the 61st BFI London Film Festival on 6,7 and 12 October 2017.


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