Comedy / Drama

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the first film that New York director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha 2012) has ever taken to the Cannes Film Festival. The screening was met with some mixed reactions by audiences but not for the content of the story and certainly not for the acting ability. More about that later.

Baumbach’s film is set in New York, as are most of his screenplays and revolves around a dysfunctional Jewish family. Head of the family is the gruff patriarch Harold Meyerowitz (a bearded Dustin Hoffman) a once famous artist renowned for his abstract sculptures back in the vibrant 1970’s and 80’s.
Croydon Guardian:
Danny and Harold

Harold is considering a comeback and wants to have a retrospective of his former work. So he invites his three grown children to dinner at his antiquated New York town house that he shares with his fourth wife Maureen (Emma Thompson) who looks like an aging hippy and likes to hit the wine bottle.

Harold’s children consist of Danny (Adam Sandler) a single stay at home Dad (following in his Father’s footsteps!) who is doing his best to bring up his 16-year old daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten). They have a great relationship together which is displayed in the opening scene in a close-up shot of the interior of their car as Danny desperately tries to find a parking space near to his parents’ house while screaming expletives as only a New Yorker can.

Danny is a disappointment to his Dad but he is the one who is still local and always there for Harold. Danny and Eliza are joined by Danny’s sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) a somewhat troubled person who hides a traumatic secret from her youth.
Croydon Guardian:
Danny and Matthew

The only sibling missing from dinner is their half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) the favourite son who has made something of his life as a financial adviser to various celebrities, one of which is rock star Randy (Adam Driver in a small role).

But this is all about Harold and his epiphany. When Mathew does appear from his LA residence he has other ideas about his Fathers future and tries to force the sale of the New York family house and along with Harold’s art in the same deal.

Harold is cantankerous and deliberately obnoxious old man, which is highlighted in a restaurant scene with son Matthew who he embarrasses by talking loudly about the man on the next table who is using Harold’s table space to place his wine glass on. Matthew is slowly losing patience with his Dad until he erupts.
Croydon Guardian:
Matthew and Harold

When Harold has a seizure, this also acts as the catalyst that brings the siblings together and allows them to bring out their feelings.

This is a great insight into a dysfunctional Jewish family that could have easily been made by Woody Allan in his heyday. Director Noah Baumbach breaks the scenes into individual short sequences, the first three being Danny and daughter Eliza, followed by Matthew and Harold and then Jean’s sad story. The other sequences appear on screen as a blackout opening to a new story with each one closing half way through a sentence?
Croydon Guardian:
Matthew Danny and Jean

Dustin Hoffman is superb as grumpy old Harold and his comedy timing and delivery is just as sharp as it was when he played Benjamin Braddock in his breakthrough movie The Graduate back in 1967.

Adam Sandler has more of the lighter moments but is still a controlled performance and it is good to see him in a straight acting role and is probably the main protagonist that you can latch on to.

Grace Van Patten who plays Danny’s daughter is one to watch. Her drama school videos with a pornographic overtone are hilarious, as the whole family are unashamedly so proud of her work.

Ben Stiller is as good as ever but he does play Ben Stiller these days and his outbursts and tightly wound up character is very reminiscent of Reuben Feffer in Along Came Polly (2004) but very watchable none the less.

Nice to see Judd Hirsch as one of Harold’s old art contemporaries L.J. Shapiro, who is also a friend and nemesis at the same time. Harold feels jealous when he visits Shapiro’s own retrospective exhibition at the MoMA gallery in New York with his son Danny.

And our very own ‘London gal’ Emma Thompson does her usual chameleon turn as Harold’s latest wife and ex New York socialite. Is there nothing she can’t do?
Croydon Guardian:
Eliza, Matthew, Danny and Jean

The Cannes Film Festival controversy stems from the fact that The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a Netflix Original and the professional association for French movie theatre owners are upset over Netflix's refusal to open the film in cinemas in France. This also included no showing of the other Netflix movie Okja which was also being presented at the festival.

When the Netflix logo appeared on the screen in Cannes, there very boos from some of the audience.

However, I found this to be a nice little Independent style film, with a great cast and music by Randy Newman whose dulcet tones are heard over the closing credits…which for some reason gave me a Buzz!

Foker On Film 4 out of 5 stars.

On Netflix from October 13

Running time 1hr 50min