There’s nothing like a little perspective to let you know that things could always be worse. Such is the case with the new Netflix original film “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).”
Writer/director Noah Baumbach’s latest film allows audiences to feel better about their own family dramas by shining a light on a much more troubled clan of moody, prima donna artists and free spirits.
“The Meyerowitz Stories” follows several months of the lives of Harold Meyerowitz and his three estranged children, whose lives all collide over Harold’s family home and large art collection. It’s Woody Allen meets “August: Osage County,” dry and observant but yet deeply personal and affecting at the same time.
“The Meyerowitz Stories” is a game-changer in the slice of life genre dominating independent filmmaking over the past several years and includes outstanding performances from dramatic heavy hitters and comedic actors playing outside their normal range.
Unquestionably, Baumbach’s film marks a career-best performance from “Saturday Night Live” funny-man Adam Sandler. As oldest son Danny, Sandler is warm and affecting well also wandering in a state of melancholy and frustration.
While his moments of anger produce some of the film’s most humorous moments, it’s in the quieter, introspective times that Sandler surprisingly shines brightest.
His Danny is eminently relatable, struggling to get along with an aging father who ignored him and a half brother who got all of the attention.
Sandler more than does the work required here, offering a complex performance he’s not known for giving.
This could be a wonderful break into deeper, more meaningful filmmaking that could give Sandler’s career a breath of fresh air it desperately needs.
Likewise, “The Meyerowitz Stories” offers comedian Ben Stiller a chance to play a subdued everyman, a role he thrives in more than the bombastic, outlandish roles we’ve seen from Stiller in the past.
His Matthew is the perfect counterbalance to Sandler’s Danny, allowing viewers a better reflection of the Meyerowitz’s complex family dynamic that instigates, excites and livens Baumbach’s film.
Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman delivers another knockout performance as the overly self-indulgent patriarch Harold.
In a dialogue-heavy film, Hoffman brings life to every word in such an interesting, challenging way that leaves audiences on the edge of their seat waiting with bated breath for Harold’s next diatribe.
The film is also blessed with a terrific ensemble cast, including Elizabeth Marvel as the mousy middle sister Jean, Oscar winner Emma Thompson as Harold’s fourth wife Maureen and taxi star Judd Hirsch as Harold’s artistic contemporary and erstwhile rival L.J.
“The Meyerowitz Stories” also serves as a new career best for Baumbach, who delivers a modern take on New York slice of life dramedy that evokes vintage Woody Allen.
The directing is unobtrusive, which allows his fantastic screenplay to shine in a way that feels personal authentic to both the actors performing and the audience watching at home.
It’s unclear if Netflix be able to break into a wide field of Academy Award contenders, either with “The Meyerowitz Stories” or their upcoming peroid drama “Mudbound.”
But it’s clear that if this film where to be recognized, nominations for best original screenplay and for Hoffman’s stellar supporting work would be likely.
There’s a smaller chance for the worthy performances of both Sandler and Stiller in the crowded lead actor category as well.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” offers an engaging look into a colorful family that will leave viewers longing for more. It’s original filmmaking that plays better on the smaller screen formats Netflix streaming allows for, making it an easily accessible quality dramedy that might become a factor during awards season this winter.