I'm guessing you either love Noah Baumbach or you hate him, I certainly know as many people in each of those camps. My exposure to him is entirely through Frances Ha, which I loved but spent a great deal of thinking how much other people would just as easily dislike it. So I was in two minds on his latest, especially given that it will be out on Netflix almost by the time the festival finishes. But, there is something weirdly alluring about the prospect of a good Adam Sandler movie. Or at least, a good movie with Adam Sandler in it.
So, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is set in an affluent part of New York (no shocks there) and follows the trials and tribulations of the titular, very much fragmented, family. Dustin Hoffman is patriarch Harold, an irritable sculptor whose best days are far behind him, though it's even debatable how good those days were. Harold, on his fourth marriage (though the first was annulled so maybe that one does count), is spending his later years with Maureen (Emma Thompson) between the country and the city. Maureen flits about, having finally given up drinking, between various exotic global locations.
The family comprises; Danny (Adam Sandler) is a single father with no discernible career but who seems to have a genuinely good relationship with his college-bound daughter Eliza. Ben Stiller's Matthew is either the success or failure of the family, depending on how you look at it. Running a very successful wealth management company, he is financially sound but forever disappointing in his father's eyes due to his lack of artistic success. And finally there is Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), their sister. Half sister anyway, they all seem to have different mothers I think (it got a bit confusing), who is marginalised by the family and generally just seems to be there in the background. The family are reunited when Harold unexpectedly falls ill and it is revealed that he and Matthew were planning to sell the New York home, along with Harold's last remaining artistic pieces.
This is not a movie to revel in silence. The script must be doorstop capable as the characters chatter back and forth, often having conversations only with themselves (though they are generally across the table from the other party). The cast are uniformly excellent. Thompson has an absolute ball as hippie Maureen, all atrocious cooking and some hysterically funny driving. Hoffman is an old hand at this sort of character and Sandler brings his repressed anger character, that is, the non-slapstick one.
But it's Stiller that really shines, and to be fair, his is probably the most fully rounded part. Matthew, constantly confused by his father for Danny (though neither are a hundred precent sure of this at the time), is the picture of exasperation as he attempts to re-connect with a man who has mostly faulty memories of him and who won't spend the time to listen to even what his son does for a living. This all comes to a head and Stiller's speech at the absent Harold's retrospective is desperate to see but never over cooks its hand.
To be honest, I'm not sure how much The Meyerowitz Stories spoke to me. I suspect there is a very specific audience on the East Coast that will spend a great deal of time laughing and crying through this whilst nodding their heads sagely. For me, this is a zippily scripted, occasionally laugh out loud funny look into somebody else's weird-ass family. I can't say I came out of it really feeling anything but the stack of eccentric characters are well worth a couple of hours of your time. Especially if you already have Netflix.