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Brad's Status Movie Review

Brad's Status (2017) movie poster Brad's Status

Theatrical Release: September 15, 2017 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Mike White

Cast: Ben Stiller (Brad Sloan), Austin Abrams (Troy Sloan), Jenna Fischer (Melanie Sloan), Luke Wilson (Jason Hatfield), Michael Sheen (Craig Fisher), Jemaine Clement (Billy Wearslter), Shazi Raja (Anayna), Luisa Lee (Maya), Mike White (Nick Pascale), Xavier Grobet (Xavier), Felicia Shulman (Cherie Parkinson)

 

Whether it's the result of aging, losing his appeal, or his own personal tastes maturing, Ben Stiller has moved away from making mainstream comedies for the masses and towards making indie comedies.
Such efforts have been sporadic and typically for writer-director Noah Baumbach, with whom Stiller collaborates a third time on the upcoming The Meyerowitz Stories (New and selected). But before that, Stiller teams up with another niche auteur in Brad's Status, the sophomore theatrical directing credit of longtime comedy writer Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl, Nacho Libre).

Stiller plays the eponymous Brad Sloan, a middle-aged man who is struggling with his friends' success and his lack thereof. The founder of a nonprofit organization, Brad lives in Sacramento with his hardworking wife Melanie (an underutilized Jenna Fischer) and his teenaged son Troy (Austin Abrams), who is looking at applying to some of the best colleges in the nation to study music.

While Brad can barely make ends meet, so much that he is kept awake at night thinking of the inheritances he and his wife have coming to them when their parents die, his friends are all flourishing. They include a bigshot political pundit (Michael Sheen), a Hollywood mogul (White), a pharmaceuticals bigwig (Luke Wilson), and a tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement) who has already retired to Maui at age 40.

In "Brad's Status", a father (Ben Stiller) and son (Austin Abrams) take a trip to look at East Coast colleges to which the teenager is planning to apply.

After not getting invited to the mogul's wedding, Brad can't help but feel he is being pushed out of his friend group and as a direct product of him choosing to struggle with middle class family existence while they all enjoy wealth and fame.

Most of the film sees Brad and Troy visiting colleges, from Troy's prestigious top choice, Harvard University, where Brad reluctantly has to call in a favor after the kid misses his scheduled interview, to Dad's own alma mater Tufts. Even Troy's exploration of institutions drives Brad to introspection, which he does via voiceover narration and occasional fantasy sequence.

Those wanting clear, conventional structures and easily synopsizable narratives may be disappointed by Brad's Status, which plods along at its own pace, with little concern over how many or few laughs it's generating. It is an amusing film that gives serious thought to taking stock of one's self into adulthood and measuring yourself against the achievements of people in your social circle, or even your own child.

Luke Wilson plays Jason Hatfield, one of the more successful and affluent friends that Brad measures himself against.

Maybe that doesn't sound like a story that needs to be told or one that needs to be experienced on the big screen, but White, returning to the director's chair ten years after his debut Year of the Dog flew under most radars, crafts a compelling and original narrative. His script deals in grays. No character is completely likable, certainly not even Stiller's protagonist.
His son comes closest, an ambitious prodigy without the ego or self-advancement that usually comes with the turf. Adolescence is not new ground for White, who has written for characters from "Freaks and Geeks" and "Dawson's Creek" to the Jack Black/Colin Hanks vehicle Orange County, which similarly dealt with applying to college but primarily for a teen audience.

Like Baumbach's films, Brad's Status utilizes Stiller in ways that his signature comedy vehicles haven't really, allowing the actor to showcase to display a knack for sadness and pettiness instead of just letting him fight to remain sane in the face of preposterous situations. Stiller seems perfectly suited to this kind of smaller movie that critics will appreciate more than moviegoers. His Meyerowitz Stories co-star Adam Sandler is in a similar place, but he has a more recognizable brand to protect and a Netflix deal to honor. Stiller has the freedom to do this kind of roaming for-hire work whenever something coming his way speaks to him. Zoolander 2 aside, he's not clinging to past glories or determined to push his star status further than necessary la Jim Carrey. Stiller's supporting cast plays off him well, even if most only do so via phone call.

The second theatrical release distributed by noteworthy production company Annapurna Pictures, Brad's Status is already off to a good start with a promising first weekend in four coastal theaters last weekend giving way to what will probably not expand much wider than this weekend's 453-theater count.

Related Reviews:
Ben Stiller: Greenberg While We're Young Zoolander Zoolander 2 Tropic Thunder
Now in Theaters: Kingsman: The Golden Circle The Lego Ninjago Movie It The Trip to Spain
Mike White: The D Train Gentlemen Broncos | Luke Wilson: Meadowland The Wendell Baker Story Bottle Rocket
Michael Sheen: Admission Passengers The Queen Midnight in Paris | Jenna Fischer: Solitary Man Hall Pass Blades of Glory
At Middleton Everybody's Fine College Road Trip

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Reviewed September 22, 2017.



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