Marking the second presence of Netflix among the Official Competition entries at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Noah Baumbach’s comedy The Meyerowitz Stories marks what is a rather unheard of occasion in which a film involving Adam Sandler will actually have you applauding at its conclusion. Joined by the likes of Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Elizabeth Marvel, Sandler helps to forge what is a truly hilarious and engaging family dynamic that is driven by the unique directorial and writing talents of the American indie director.
Presented in chapters of sorts, Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories begins with Adam Sandler screaming obscenities as he looks to park his car in New York. It’s the beginning of what many will assume to be a usually ridiculous and annoying turn from the actor but in fact his visit to father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) is about to turn into a very serious affair. Sandler’s Danny is split from his wife and has been jobless for quite some time, and it’s all about to get worse upon his visit to his father and stepmother (Emma Thompson).
Set to join Danny is sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) and high-flying brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) as their opinionated and dividing father is taken into hospital with a life-threatening turn that brings together siblings who are very much poles apart in terms of their directions in life. With their father lauding praise on the achieving Matthew and somewhat ignoring the continuous support from his other children, relationships are strained and when they all come together things are about to get interesting.
Noah Baumbach has a simply wonderful talent of making the audience really invest themselves fully into his characters portrayed on screen. He’s done it in the past with his previous efforts and does so with gusto once more as he mixes personalities into the pot and comes out with the Meyerowitz family who are truly one-of-a-kind. Creating a family dynamic that is difficult not to be sucked in by, Baumbach presents to us a story driven by an opinionated father’s whose own actions and reactions are causing rifts in the family and are simply so magnetic to watch. From Sandler’s Danny who simply cannot hear anything other than the achievements of his younger brother Matthew, to Matthew himself resenting the fact that his father is suffocating him, these family connections play out to sheer brilliance, providing plentiful laughs and also driving the narrative to great levels.
What’s most delightful about The Meyerowitz Stories is the writing. Many filmmakers would be far from bold enough to ignite the screen with overlapping conversations and random discussions, but Baumbach does just this and makes them somehow work, leaving you hypnotised by the character traits and emotions. One particular highlight that shines a spotlight on just this is a lunch meeting between Hoffman and Stiller in which they are talking at complete cross purposes, with the father almost ignoring anything his son is saying while also hilariously feeling irked by the actions of the person on the table next to them. On paper it would look purely jumbled, but this is Baumbach’s ultimate domain and he shows it on screen as something that is too tantalising not to miss.
Pure unison between actors and director is a key component and this is where Netflix’s upcoming release hits all the right notes in creating a family we’ll certainly not forget for quite some time. Written beautifully and with great work from all involved – Sandler certainly in that category – The Meyerowitz Stories is sheer joy and marks Netflix two for two at this year’s festival.