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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) movie review: The best Adam Sandler film in 9 years

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) movie review: Director Noah Baumbach extracts one of the best performances of Adam Sandler’s career in this offbeat family dramedy co-starring Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman.

movie reviews Updated: Oct 21, 2017 17:19 IST
Rohan Naahar
Would it be odd to begin the Adam Sandler Oscar campaign?
Would it be odd to begin the Adam Sandler Oscar campaign?

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Director - Noah Baumbach
Cast - Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel
Rating - 4/5

It is one of modern cinema’s great mysteries – right up there with ‘What did Bill Murray whisper into Scarlett Johansson’s ear at the end of Lost in Translation?’ and ‘What was in Tom Hanks’ FedEx box in Cast Away?’

Why, oh why, has Adam Sandler spent his entire career starring in some of the worst ‘comedies’ ever made? Why has he chosen – because don’t forget, no one forced him into it, like some sort of bizarre revenge plot – to ignore all signs of greatness, and waste his talents on movies that seem to be ageing like roadkill?

There can be no easy answers. Doing stuff like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore early in your career can be explained – they were, after all, big starring roles for an up-and-comer fresh off Saturday Night Live. But choosing to do movies like Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy, is embarrassing for a man who is now in his 50s – especially when he can afford to say ‘no’.

In any case, Adam Sandler’s bizarre life choices have had no impact on me, mostly because his fans seem to like the trash he makes (so, like, whatever), but also because I know that beneath the pile of garbage, he’s buried a handful of gems. And often, to get to them – to discover films like Reign Over Me, like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People – you have to wade knee-deep in muck for hours.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is one of them, one of the gems. It’s the new movie by Noah Baumbach – a filmmaker that, for someone (me) who has boycotted Woody Allen, is as close to the real deal as one could get. But don’t take that the wrong way: He’s a master in his own right, on par with his frequent partner-in-crime, Wes Anderson. Before Netflix scooped up its rights, The Meyerowitz Stories premiered in competition at Cannes, like Okja - back when it used to be called Yeh Din Ka Kissa.

And while you comprehend the sheer miraculousness of the times we live in – think about it, we’re watching Palme d’Or contenders sat on our creaky couches – allow me to introduce you to the Meyerowitz clan.

Sandler plays Danny, a realistic variation on the man-child characters he plays so often, as if in his sleep. He’s coming off a divorce, he’s on the verge of being alone for the first time since his daughter was born; he hasn’t worked a day in his life, and to make matters worse, he has a limp that everyone seems to be making a big deal of. Like the best Baumbach ‘heroes’ Danny is a man stuck in time, pulling a face at the very thought of growing up, irreparably broken by his past, and terrified of the future.

And Sandler is terrific in the role; stripped down, achingly sad, and utterly relatable – the best he has been in almost a decade. It’s almost distracting, how good he is, because everyone – from Ben Stiller (Danny’s more successful half-brother) and Dustin Hoffman (his artist father who never quite ‘made it’) to Emma Thompson (his father’s fourth wife, a bohemian) and Elizabeth Marvel (his scene stealing sister) – is on top form.

And Baumbach’s razor-sharp script pulls no punches. He hurls them at each other, defenseless, naked, as their eccentricities and anxieties collide. His New York stories offer a very unique look at a very particular, very insular world of intellectual elites – they’re wood sculptors and documentary filmmakers, out-of-work dancers and gallery owners.

It might understandably sound off-putting to some, all this hipster-y YOLO-ness. But The Meyerowitz Stories – in all its quirky brilliance, its you-got-me editing, and dysfunctional family drama – is one of the best films of the year.

And I believe that in the process of writing this, I might have answered my own question. For Adam Sandler to stop making the movies like Grown Ups, and choosing to only star in indie dramedies by directors popular on Film Twitter and nowhere else, would be to alienate millions of fans. This is not the Adam Sandler they want – he isn’t in drag, and he isn’t getting peed on by a rogue deer – so, pass.

But over the years, he’s trapped himself in this endless web of mediocrity. Films like the Meyerowitz Stories are like a prison break at best, and a cry for help at worst. He’s in there somewhere, the raw comedic genius behind Opera Man, and we can help break him out.

You in?

Watch the Meyerowitz Stories trailer here

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar