The Movie Waffler New Release Review - BRAD'S STATUS | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

New Release Review - BRAD'S STATUS

BRAD'S STATUS review
A father suffers an existential crisis while visiting colleges with his son.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Mike White

Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement

BRAD'S STATUS poster


As a child, whenever I baulked at the prospect of eating Brussels sprouts, my mother would remind me that children were starving in Africa. It had the dual effect of making me feel guilty and thankful that I had some food on my plate. But did it have to be Brussels sprouts? Knowing some of my friends were having pizza for dinner made it all the worse.

By most metrics, Brad Sloan, played by Ben Stiller in writer-director Mike White's Brad's Status, seems to have a great life. He has a beautiful wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer); a son on the cusp of entry to the Ivy League (Austin Abrams' Troy); he runs a successful non-profit organisation; and he lives in a sizable home in sunny Sacramento.


BRAD'S STATUS

Yet Brad can't help comparing himself to his old college buddies, most of whom have now become wealthy entrepreneurs and celebrities. Compared to his peers, Brad's life feels like a plate full of sprouts.

When Brad accompanies Troy to Boston to check out potential colleges for his son, his first world angst is exacerbated as he's reminded of his own college days and the ambitions he once had for himself.

Stiller and White make for a good pairing. They've both oscillated between lowbrow fare to pay the bills (White has a writing credit on The Emoji Movie, a film that has come to symbolise modern Hollywood's obsession with the lowest common denominator) and more personally satisfying indie dramas like Brad's Status. White's best work to date is his script for Miguel Arteta's The Good Girl, another movie about a white middle class protagonist unhappy with their lot.


BRAD'S STATUS

Directing his own words exposes White's lack of confidence in getting his message across, as he interrupts much of the narrative with an unnecessary voiceover, Stiller's sombre timbre spelling out his character's discontent in an all too on the nose manner. Remove the clunky narration and you have a far more satisfying film, one which allows the viewer to fill in the psychological blanks. Take for example a scene where Brad and Troy meet the latter's musician friend Ananya (Shazi Raja). We don't need a voiceover to tell us that engaging in conversation with an attractive young woman who still possesses an ambitious spirit long broken in Brad is stirring up memories of more hopeful times in our protagonist - Stiller is a good enough actor to convey this visually.

The movie's best moments are those shared between Stiller and Abrams, as we see the father's sense of entitlement rubbing off on his son. When Troy realises he arrived in Boston a day late for his interview at Harvard, his father flips out, hammering home the message to his son that his white middle class status gives him a disadvantage, only to minutes later call in a favour from an influential friend (Michael Sheen) to rearrange the interview.


BRAD'S STATUS

It's all too easy however to simply label Brad's crisis as white entitlement and tell him to be happy with his lot. That's not how humans function. If we could all genuinely be content with our lives we'd all be living in communist utopias, free of resentment towards our peers. White casts himself here as a Hollywood star living the dream in an expensive Hollywood home, which reminds the audience that while Brad's Status is telling us to appreciate what we have, its simplistic message is being delivered by someone who has more than most of us can ever dream of.

Brad's Status is in UK/ROI cinemas January 5th.




discussion by