There are movies that I call New York movies – stories about people who live in new York City. I think ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the definition of the New York movie. These are characters that are quintessentially New York, and when I lived there, I encountered these characters daily, that in a sense I don’t need to try to understand them at all – I already do.
Baumbach assembles a splendid cast here of a family both torn and reunited – the patriarch, Harold, (Dustin Hoffman, terrific here) who is an artist who may have had his day, but he is still a little renowned. Harold is a true character – self indulgent, you keep talking to him, and every he answer he makes is connected to him and only himself. There’s his son Danny (Adam Sandler) who moves at their old house temporarily as he transitions his daughter to college. There’s Harold’s wife (Emma Thompson) and his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) who have varying degrees of celebrated weirdness here – we find out later what cause the latter’s trauma. And then there’s also the golden son, Matt (Ben Stiller) a successful businessman who lives in California.
Baumbach breaks the film into separate episodes, like a short story collection, and focuses first on the two sons. There are great comedy of errors here, and I found them all hilarious and heartbreaking, as he gets to flesh out the characters in these situations. We cringe, we take sides, and ultimately these are what endears the characters to us. The performances are perfect across the board, and Sandler proves there’s more to him than his usual comedic shenanigans. I thought Hoffman was best above all. I can’t help but think this is the kind of film I want Woody Allen to be making, as it reminded me of his Manhattan movies, like ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’ Needless to say, i enjoyed these film immensely, as personally it offered me a glimpse of a life I used to have.