(director/writer: Mike White; cinematographer: Xavier Grobe; editor: Heather Persons; music: Mark Mothersbaugh; cast: Ben Stiller (Brad Sloan), Jenna Fischer (Melanie), Austin Abrams (Troy), Michael Sheen (Craig Fisher), Mike White (Nick Pascale), Luke Wilson(Jason Hatfield), Jemaine Clement (Billy Wearslter), Shazi Raja (Ananya), Adam Capriolo (Chris Kanew), Luisa Lee (Maya); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, David Bernad, Sidney Kimmel; Amazon Studios; 2017)
“Its artful material is deftly handled by writer-director Mike White.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A family drama satire on the mid-life crisis due to the insecurity of a self-doubting gloomy parent, that tells its biting story without the usual Hollywood feel-good approach. Its artful material is deftly handled by writer-director Mike White (“Year of the Dog”), who turns in a subversively fine script. It features a good performance by Ben Stiller (in a role he can do in his sleep) as a self-absorbed malcontent, who is losing his mind for no reason but his self-deceptions. There’s a running commentary by Stiller of him thinking out loud and whining, and a strong scene where the smarmy Stiller character embarrasses his smart son on a college campus. Family man Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller), a middle-aged semi-successful do-gooder, who is running from his home a non-profit organization. He lives comfortably middle-class with his nice supportive wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and their musical prodigy son Troy (Austin Abrams) in suburban Sacramento. The kid, interested in attending an Ivy League college in the East, is shown around Boston by dad, who attended college at Tufts. Brad compares his life, which he thinks might be a failure, with four of his classmates from college–a Hollywood big-shot (Mike White), a wealthy hedge fund founder (Luke Wilson), a tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement), and a political pundit and bestselling author (Michael Sheen). Circumstances has Brad reconnect with those old friends and now he seriously compares himself with them, as he thinks their wealth, power and fame makes it certain they have led lives he can only dream about.
REVIEWED ON 1/8/2018 GRADE: B