If you needed any further proof of Netflix taking over the world you only need to look at the prestigious talent that is being lined up for some of the reported eighty original films that he streaming service are promising in the next twelve months. There is a real gap in the market for the so called mid price films. These projects are more expensive than the small indie films that tend to cost no more than a couple of million dollars but are nowhere near the mega budget blockbuster s that clog up our multiplexes. Netflix, among other services have seen that for an investment up to about fifty million dollars they can attract top film makers and stars. The Meyerowitz Stories is the perfect example of this with Noah Baumbach being more than happy to work with Netflix to produce a film that is getting as much critical praise as his previous, cinema bound, delights.
With the subtitle New and Selected it is no surprise that the film is framed as a series of episodes each nominally concerning a member of the family. The father is the constant that joins the tales together. Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) is a retired art professor and a sculptor who never got the recognition he thought he deserved. He puts this down to not compromising his principles though others see it a little differently. He holds court at the old family home as if he is still an important figure. His son Danny (Adam Sandler) has reluctantly come back to live with him after his daughter leaves for college and he splits with his wife. His daughter (Elizabeth Marvel) is a constant presence in the house as his carer / dogsbody. Back into their lives comes the younger brother Matthew( Ben Stiller) who is facilitating the sale of the family home. This is the catalyst for old tensions and problems to resurface.
Much has been made of Adam Sandler’s career choices even before he made the move to work exclusively with Netflix. His output has been wildly varied with critical praise very hard to come by. This hasn’t made one bit of difference to his popularity as the six movie deal he is in the middle of just now attests to. This film is one of the rare occasions where he is gaining a lot of praise and rightly so. it is a very dialled down performance from Sandler. It is one that allows the character and his issues slowly unfold as the story progresses. Our introduction to Danny sees him trying to find a parking space in a busy New York borough near to his father’s home. The impression given is that he is a slightly frustrated individual with the situation he finds himself. He is divorced and his daughter is set to leave for college. Moving back in with his father is just the extra kick in the stones he doesn’t need. Sandler gives a quite portrayal of a man on the edge.
The family dynamic is expertly drawn early on in the first story. The way Harold greets his children speaks volumes about his relationships with them. His casual, half-hearted embrace of Danny shows just why the family is in the state it is. Counter this with his reunion with favourite son Matthew and the difference is clear. Harold’s ego and his need to be in charge are the very things that are keeping the family apart.
As with all his work, Noah Baumbach concentrates on the characters and the story over all else. He knows that if he gets these foundations right the film flows and it keeps the audience on board. The episodic nature of the film lends nicely to the story. Having the story unfold as it does with different perspectives and recollections of the same key events in the family’s past keeps it fresh. Baumbach’s real skill is to give the actors the space in which to perform. His direction appears to be quite straightforward but is clever use of the sets and surroundings that add that extra level of enjoyment.
This is the kind of film that is not getting funding anymore. It is either big budget or micro budget movies that seem to be the bankable. The fact that Netflix (and others) have taken on the mantle of providing medium budget films can only be a good thing. If they are anywhere near as good as The Meyerowitz Stories than the future is looking a little brighter for film fans.