This review was originally published during the Cannes Film Festival.
All happy movie families are alike; every unhappy movie family is … also kind of alike, but they’re a great litmus test for a director’s evolution. In Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), we’re introduced to a kind of perpetually kvelling, far-from-tragic brood whose deep-seated insecurities and regrets slowly emerge over the course of the film. There are shades of The Royal Tenenbaums and Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Still Walking here, as well as Baumbach’s own The Squid and the Whale. But it’s incredible what a difference 12 years makes: Baumbach is an altogether more generous and insightful filmmaker here than he was the last time he told this story.
It also must be emphasized that all bad Adam Sandler movies are alike, and every good Adam Sandler movie (which, for this critic, is not many) will broadside you in its own way. Sandler, who plays Danny, the less-successful son of sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman), has not been this well utilized since Punch-Drunk Love. He’s the first member of the family we meet, as he’s trying to park his Subaru Outback in the Upper West Side, his film-student daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten) in the passenger seat. Their rapport is easygoing and affectionate, and punctuated with Sandler’s signature red-faced screams at other drivers. The scene cuts in the middle of one of them: a cinematic et cetera, and the only real “LOL, it’s Adam Sandler” wink. The rest of the film creates a more nuanced portrait: Danny is a good-natured but self-defeating would-be musician who, despite neglect, is more…
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