Entertainment

If you only see one movie this week

THE best movie out this week isn't playing at your local cinema. It's on Netflix.

This means there's no scrambling for parking, navigating the crowds and taking your begrudgingly pre-assigned seat only to find out you're behind a really tall person with even taller hair.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is one of most notable movies Netflix has released on its streaming platform since its start into original film, having acquired the distribution rights to director Noah Baumbach's film a month before its Cannes premiere.

Baumbach has made a career out of looking at family dysfunction through the likes of The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg and the screenplay for Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. And he is in fine form here.

Enlisting a perfectly cast repertoire of Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel and Adam Sandler (yes, that Adam Sandler, more on that later), The Meyerowitz Stories is a sharp, brilliantly written dramedy that is oddly relatable in its absurdity.

Families aren't always easy to get along with but get along we must. That's been never truer than in the Meyerowitz clan, which has been defined by its patriarch Harold (Hoffman), a self-important and unreasonable sculptor who always felt his work should've been more appreciated.

His relationships with his children Danny (Sandler), Jean (Marvel) and Matthew (Stiller) are laden by his own inadequacies and his tendency to swap wives every few years. Not to mention what it means for everyone else to live with someone with "an artistic temperament".

When the adult children reunite in New York for an upcoming retrospective art show of their father's work, they have to deal with a lot of baggage from over the years, with him and with each other.

Baumbach is particularly adept at finding the humour and silliness in what could've been tragically sad situations. For all of his characters' flaws, Baumbach is generous, never playing them for caricatures even though it would've been all too easy.

He is a wonderful writer with a knack for rhythm, balancing big emotional moments with the little ones. Like giving viewers inconsequential asides that elicits a laugh and add richness to the characters - Thompson's Maureen, casually throwing out there that Willem Dafoe was a former lover or how diligently all the siblings are at taking notes.

As with Baumbach's other works, The Meyerowitz Stories is a performance piece, bringing together talented thespians.

There's the occasional hint of Sandler's more buffoonish side but as with his performance in P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, when Sandler isn't involved with the behind-the-scenes process, he brings the goods. He acts the hell out of Danny with a surprising restraint and nuance.

Now, if we could just keep Sandler away from the producer and writer chair and keep him under the creative control of strong filmmakers, he could still carve out a legacy that's more than atrocities like Blended or Jack and Jill.

Stiller, who had previously worked with Baumbach on Greenberg, does the trick as Matthew, and Hoffman is commanding as the mercurial patriarch.

Marvel, who is better known for playing strong women with imposing bearings (Heather Dunbar in House of Cards, Elizabeth Keane in Homeland), is a chameleon in The Meyerowitz Stories - she actually looks shorter. Her portrayal of softly spoken and overlooked Jean is a joy to watch as she lets her character's dialogue run-on in that way people do when they know no one is listening to them.

The Meyerowitz Stories is a biting portrait of neurotic family dynamics but, more than that, it is a warmly funny film that doesn't rely on sentiment.

Rating: 4/5

The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected) is available to stream on Netflix from 6pm AEDT today.

Topics:  editors picks good meyerowitz stories movie netflix


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