The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

This wonderful film made me laugh until I cried.

In what feels very much like an evolution from Noah Baumbach’s also superb Squid and the Whale, this look at a not-so-normal (No, I’m not going to use the word ‘dysfunctional’. The Meyerowitzes may not be functioning smoothly, but they’re functioning) family is as open eyed as it is open hearted. Characters may not be doing great, but they’re doing. And there’s, we discover, a reason for just about all they’re doing, pretty or not.

Papa Meyerowitz is played with savvy understanding by Dustin Hoffman, who gives a performance that’s as kind of sweet as it is sharp and devastating. Harold is a New York City artist whose work was once bought by MOMA. Now, his reputation, along with that piece of sculpture, is buried away in the cellar, collecting dust. All too natural, in some circles anyway, for Harold to take his frustrations out on the people who keep showing up anyway, his family. Ben Stiller, the son who made good, or at least made a lot of money, can’t stand his dad. Elizabeth Marvel, the quiet daughter who got too used to being taken advantage of, makes your heart ache. A rather glorious Emma Thompson makes the most out of every second she’s on screen, as Harold’s second wife, the one who tries to hang in there until she’s just got to go off somewhere and escape. But it’s Adam Sandler who’s the biggest surprise here, making his Danny, the loyal son who still hasn’t stood up for himself, a recognizable stunner.

Baumbach’s best work to this point has gone pretty tough on some very well written characters. Here, he, perhaps with age and experience, has not lost any of his take-no-prisoners perceptions, or wit, but he has come to embrace those characters with love. Even if they, like us all, haven’t always been so lovely.