The Meyerowitz Stories

review by daniel Mcfarlane

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Coming to Netflix this week is the long-awaited and much publicised The Meyerowitz Stories fresh of the Cannes and NYFF film circuit.  Controversy aside, it explores the generational woe between the wealthy family’s petulant patriarch Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffmann) and his children. What Baumbach has managed to do is sculpt something original from a very unoriginal theme of affluent family dysfunction abundantly found within American independent cinema as the film’s themes range as far back as Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Allen’s Hannah and Her Sister’s (1986) and Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Even Baumbachs’s The Squid and The Whale (2005) provides a thematic prologue to the director’s general upper-middle class scope through the quirky and cultured circles of New York’s elite. What his new film provides is a comical vehicle for his merry band of urbane characters. Emma Thompson plays Harold’s current wife, Maureen, she appears as a hilariously new age hippy. In one dinner scene she bemoans “There’s no little birds left in Italy” her head swings heavy with wine as she concludes “They just fry them and eat them all up. It’s very sad.” It’s not, it’s actually very funny.

The film grants a space for often underused actors to behave wildly, and behave very well they do. Hoffman’s character asks does an expensive order of salmon “blows ya?” for its costlyprice. While the traditionally dire Adam Sandler underacts as the family’s black sheep as her tries to find his place within the family’s dynamic. The subtle and surreal settings of this film introduces The Meyerowitz Stories a welcomed addition to the Baumbach oeuvre as it enjoyably finds its place within the streaming service environment. It sits as a warm contrast to the backdrop of expository-heavy films and police procedural television. Although it is not as revolutionary in discussing the confusion life events of as Frances Ha (2012) or even as sought after as Baumbach’s screenplay for the HBO pilot for The Corrections (2012) but it successfully points the director in the right direction for his future projects.