The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) ★★★

57/100

Give Baumbach credit for self-awareness: He does put the words "Jean's story" in parentheses, acknowledging that she's being marginalized. And I'm not someone who favors a long moratorium on films about white dudes and their petty grievances, or who insists that such films make equal time for other voices. But there's still something maddening about creating a family with three children, focusing almost entirely on the two men, and defining the woman by a monologue about her childhood experience of sexual harassment—an ostensibly harrowing anecdote that ultimately serves to provide the two men with a comic revenge setpiece. (I was no fan of Listen Up Philip, but at least Perry gave Elisabeth Moss' character a legitimate interlude of her own.) That Marvel, in the opinion of some, "steals the movie"—a testament to her skill—doesn't alter the implicit message being sent here about whom to prioritize.

I dunno, maybe it wouldn't have bothered me as much had the damaged masculinity aspect felt a bit less tired—for example, had the film not built to a Stiller-Sandler shoving/wrestling match immediately followed by that cathartic standby, the public speaking meltdown. Baumbach is a sharp writer, gifted with actors, so there's plenty to enjoy here on a micro level. But the only aspect that truly grabbed me, that felt uniquely insightful, was the kids' clueless obsession with Pam, the resident who happens to be on call when they first arrive at the hospital. Their inability to grasp that Pam has no personal investment in their father rings true despite being slightly exaggerated, and held far more interest for me than did another impotent yet domineering father figure (doing such overly broad stuff as breaking a pool cue literally seconds after his son mentions having given it to him as a gift).

Sandler really is pretty terrific, though—and I say that as someone who thinks his presence crippled Punch-Drunk Love (despite that film having been expressly built around his persona). Doting father of a college-age girl fits him surprisingly well; love how utterly functional that relationship is. Even if The Adventures of Pagina-Man is way, way too ludicrous. (All but confirmed: The perpetually topless script supervisor in Life Aquatic was Baumbach's idea.)