The not very likable Meyerowitz family depicted in writer-director Noah Baumbach’s latest opus is a dysfunctional mess, but wry humor and solid acting come to the rescue. There isn’t much sympathy to be found for the characters, but at least they are miserably colorful. The father, Harold, as grumpily played by excellent Dustin Hoffman, is an aging, disgruntled sculptor. He feels he deserves more recognition and he can be very nasty toward those around him. Does he really have that much talent?
There are his two sons. Ben Stiller plays Matthew, who has done well in the business world in Los Angeles. His ineffective brother, Danny, played effectively by Adam Sandler, is unfulfilled, including in a marriage that has resulted in a split. When Matthew comes back to New York on a visit emotional hell breaks loose between the brothers and that scene of long-simmering conflict coming to a boil is one of the best in the film. The trouble is one is hard pressed to sympathize with either of them, but at least Baumbach enables us to laugh at the friction that erupts.
Danny’s college daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten) provides mirth with her aspirations toward filmmaking, We watch a snippet from her student film, which turns out to be comically pseudo-pornographic. Elizabeth Marvel is in a world of her own as Danny’s sister, Jean. Emma Thompson manages to elicit laughs from a rather thankless role as Harold’s wife.
The film is rather disjointed but pulls steadily together so that by the end we get an overall indelible portrait of the Meyerowitz family members. The film is neither comedy nor high drama, but the acting manages to keep one interested. My problem is that I don’t much care about anyone, and therefore watching the film is like peeking in through a window at certain specimens of New Yorkers without having much concern for the truths to be found about their lives. A Netflix release. Reviewed October 13, 2017.