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Review: Brad’s Status

September 22, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) is living a decent life in Sacramento, with a nice home, a good job at a non-profit that he started, a loving wife (Jenna Fischer) and a teenaged son Troy (Austin Abrams) who is getting ready to forge his own path in the world.

But he can’t shake the feeling that he hasn’t done as well and isn’t as successful as his four old friends from school (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson and Mike White), who have all found wealth and fame through political commentary, tech companies, hedge funds and film producing, and have far surpassed him both in financial and social circles.

When he accompanies Troy on a trip to Boston to tour university campuses, Brad starts heavily reflecting on his own life and career, coming to terms with the idea that his own son might surpass him in the world.  With an acutely perceptive and beautifully written script from writer-director Mike White, Brad’s Status is a touching father-son dramedy that does a fine job of probing the mid-life crises of a man nearing fifty who has a lot going for him but still feels like somewhat of a failure.

Playing with almost constant voiceover narration, as Brad’s inner dialogue plums the existential depths of his character, the film becomes an emotionally resonant look at someone coming to terms with the fact that the people he grew up with all have become more successful than him, doing pretty well for himself but still craving the respect and admiration that comes so easily to others.  Brad judges himself as a failure because he lacks all of the same material successes as his old friends, but there is something deeper going in his psyche that has to do with the fear of being forgotten or replaced.

The film is carried by a soulful and moving performance from Ben Stiller, who has become one of our finest purveyors of middle aged malaise in countless other great films, and is equally strong here in moments of both awkward humour and deeply affecting character drama, with hints of sadness flashing behind his eyes.  It’s his performance, coupled with the sharp screenplay, that makes Brad’s Status worth seeing, allowing us to peer deep into the title character’s psyche.

A version of this review was originally published during the Toronto International Film Festival.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 23, 2017 1:19 am

    Its great to read a positive review of this film. I’m guessing it divides on age lines; older people will get it. Ben Shiller did a great job with this whimsical interior monologue about mid-life inadequacy. I liked it.

    Like

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