‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ Review: Adam Sandler gives his best performance yet in this neurotic, affecting Baumbach ensemble

Imagine The Royal Tenenbaums, featuring a sprawling ensemble cast who all bring their A-game playing an entirely dysfunctional family, blending drama and comedy in equal measure, but without the Wes Anderson artificiality, and with a very distinctive but realistic New York state-of-mind story that only Noah Baumbach could concoct, and you get Netflix’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).

Yet comparing The Meyerowitz Stories to The Royal Tenenbaums might be a slight to both films, as each have their own pleasures. For example, and maybe most notably, The Meyerowitz Stories features the best performance Adam Sandler has ever given. As Danny Meyerowitz, the black sheep of the family, with a bad limp, Sandler plays one of the sons to Harold (Dustin Hoffman) — the son with the most strained relationship to his Dad. Once a seemingly talented musician, who blew his career on drugs and having a child at a young age, he is a caring father but a shell of a man when around his domineering, former sculpture professor father. As the story reveals more and more about Danny’s past, we realize that he and his sister Jean were neglected as children, because their father and his four wives (he was divorced three times) never spent quality time with Danny and Jean.

Partly because of this, he feels a great rivalry with half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller), who may be the only Meyerowitz child with a successful career — even though he is far removed from his father’s goals for having each of his children become a talented artist. Sandler nails this quiet complexity, where he is outwardly loud and has random moments of (comic) swearing, but, for the most part, keeps his pain under the surface. The film is pretty low-key and likely won’t gain much awards traction, but Sandler deserves notes throughout the season for his turn. It’s good to see him do this much character work, rivaling his performances in Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People.

The whole cast, though, is excellent throughout, with Hoffman being particularly affecting as a cranky, retired intellectual. In fact, the biggest complaint for the film would be its longish run time. At 1 hour and 52 minutes, it seems as if Baumbach loved the characters so much that, instead of maintaining the novelistic short story ambitions the film starts with, he creates three to four seemingly capable endings before deciding on the last sequence.

Overall, though, this neurotic, poignant dramedy is a welcome addition to the fall season.

Grade: 8.2/10

 

Featured image via Netflix.