Middle age is a terrifying concept. It’s a period of everyone’s life where you are forced to look at who you are and what you have become. Usually happening around the forty year old mark (though, with the rise of social media, one suspects this has become sooner than that,) the phenomena puts people into a deep depression where constant comparisons to our peers leads us to do something whacky.
Ben Stiller has been the poster child for this for seemingly years and has crafted some amazing movies because of it, including While We’re Young and The Meyerowitz Stories. In latest flick Brad’s Status, he provides a provoking and tender look at a man on an emotional precipice.
Also starring Martin Sheen and Jermaine Clement, Brad’s Status revolves around the titular middle aged man who is taking his teenaged son on tours of University campuses. However, with the increasing profile of his friends playing on his mind, Brad spends most of his time distant, wondering exactly why he’s feeling despondent and how he can find solace. It doesn’t help that his only son is going off to explore life for himself. Can Brad figure out what truly makes me happy?
There is nothing really new presented in Brad’s Status. Directed by Mike White (who also stars in the film,) the movie navigates through mournful and regretful emotions that have plagued lead characters before (on and off the screen.) Yet it is in the handling of these feelings where Brad’s Status shines. Flitting through fantastical sequences that Brad has in an attempt to quantify his life as well as showcasing interactions with his old friends and his son’s young world provides some intimate insights into how we are and how we life.
Offering up this narrative, the themes of loneliness and incompletion are rife throughout the film. Brad’s insistence that the world hates him because he hasn’t earned money like these friends, especially Martin Sheen’s much more accomplished Craig Fisher is both an irritating and endearing stance. As he tries to pin his future success on his son, the more inwards he comes and, though frustrating as it can be for a man to talk himself out of his circumstance which is generally good and average. it is never uninteresting. You’ll certainly recognise a few feelings or two here.
This does provoke the best conversation, however, and that’s when he talks to the young Anyana who admires his non-profit career choice. Battling with guilt over his newly downhearted stance, their talk provides one of the better moments of the film. That being said, it’s really Brad and his son’s Troy’s interactions that propel this movie into excellence. It’s gentle and provoking, happily not calamitous as most father/son relationships are depicted on film.
Ben Stiller is at his best here and provides some funny moments in an overall muted comedy. While it may not seem like an interesting watch, you’ll come away from an emotive and loving experience with a smile. It’s about life at it’s most complex and complicated and watching Stiller try to reconcile his thoughts in an in-depth manner is truly captivating.
Brad’s Status is out in cinemas now