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WHAT'S NEW AT THE MOVIES?
No, you don’t have to be a middle aged father college road tripping with his son to feel how wonderful Mike White’s gentle comedy is: you just have to have an open heart and soul.
A quite terrific Ben Stiller plays Brad, a 47 year old who’s found himself landed smack in the middle. He’s not just at mid-life, he’s at mid-success, at least in comparison to his old college friends. A comfortable income, a sweet wife, a nice house: what does it all stack up to when you’re stressing about tuition for the son who grew up on you and suddenly may just make it into Harvard, not good-enough Tufts, like you went to?
I can’t imagine that any parent, if they’re honest enough, won’t confess to freaking out just a little at that you’re-off-to-college juncture. Even Tony Soprano had his issues with it. Writer/director White doesn’t sugar coat any of this. Brad finds he’s not just disappointed in himself, he’s jealous of just about everybody around him. And he won’t take the responsibility for it, either, casting blame on society, the demise of journalism, even the wife he loves, who has her own career success and thinks every pasta sauce he makes is delicious. She should have pushed him to do more. And yes, White even mentions the unmentionable: Brad loves his son and will go to the mat for him. But he also is just a little bit worried: what if Troy’s status winds up higher than his dad’s?
As a director, White tempers all of what could have been privileged naval gazing with a compassionate, comic sweetness. Nobody’s perfect, White reminds us. And, when you add it all up, there are some basic qualities that count more than others. That’s a status update that should ring true for everyone.