Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Baumbach's Embarassing Dad Years.

Consequences of an incestuous family come home to roost in Shadow Earth's The Royal Tenenbaums 2, where all of the kids have grown up and have kept themselves busy by churning out anxious little copies of themselves. Will our characters something-something in time?

Hoffman, substituting the Jeff Daniels role while wearing Brian De Palma's wardrobe, remains an insufferable burden on his ex-wives and children (Sandler, Stiller, Marvel), where his lack of social awareness forces them to micromanage his behavior and ride the bull for as long as they can before the patience of the universe wears thin. Moments of joy are fleeting, moments of frustration linger, and a car gets beaten up. Standard fare, really.

Taken in the short view, it's hard to know if these experiences are transforming the characters into stronger individuals or further galvanizing them into one mess of a family, doomed to forever live under the high-maintenance shadow of their father. Transformations are internal and never-ending; in Baumbach's films, the transformations may never begin. The hopeful message of the ending casts the Meyerowitz siblings as a buffer generation between their children and their grandparents, that as long as they can contain their neuroses, the next generation is saved. Okay... the joke's on them when their kids unknowingly create another Hoffman.

Baumbach is building a Cinematic Universe of Discomfort with only slight maneuvering of continuity. Books become sculptures, adoptions become births, ping-pong (paddle-that-cock) becomes pool, Pais becomes Eisenberg becomes Stiller becomes Sandler, and Laura Palmer is rescued between every film. The performances are so good and the situations so infuriating that a complete and utter lack of movement doesn't matter. This is far from the filmmaker's best and an admirable distance from his worst, but I do appreciate this new age of Baumbach where actors remember they can act and film remembers how to be film.

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