Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2017. Gilded Halfwing, IAC Films, Netflix. Screenplay by Noah Baumbach. Cinematography by Robbie Ryan. Produced by Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub. Music by Randy Newman. Production Design by Gerald Sullivan. Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi. Film Editing by Jennifer Lame. Cannes Film Festival 2017. Gotham Awards 2017
Comedic drama that provides something of a follow-up to The Squid and The Whale, with the abrasive personality of a dissatisfied and selfish artist now an aged man (played by Dustin Hoffman) dampening the lives of his grown children. Adam Sandler is the cast standout as the older brother whose lack of employment, failed marriage and increasingly problematic limp show his father’s lack of parenting finesse at their most physically tangible. He and sister Elizabeth Marvel have never really had much of a relationship with their dad, but with the upcoming sale of the Manhattan family home by their younger half-brother (Ben Stiller), they are drawn together to face their familial legacy. Emma Thompson has a gleefully fun supporting role as Hoffman’s alcoholic wife and Candice Bergen an exquisite, short sequence as Stiller’s mother, but despite their presence and some wonderful passages of dialogue, the whole thing doesn’t stitch together as sharply as it should. These people are interesting but the narrative is so slack that it feels like you’re bursting in on director Noah Baumbach’s private thoughts about his life and family; where Squid did such a beautiful job of building all its circumstances toward one central scene of realization to relieve its tension (watching Robin Hood with mom), here there are far too many breakthroughs for one movie and the overall feeling is one of witty, intellectual excess. Fans of the cast will want to give it a shot, though, as it features the above mentioned performances as well as a great showcase for the underrated Marvel, and what is probably the most honest and unguarded on-camera moment of Stiller’s career.