Ben Stiller plays the kind of role he does best in this film about a man who lacks the kind of status attained by his college friends. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
We’re all familiar with the danger of the late-night Instagram scroll. Got anxiety? It’s a surefire way to make it worse.
Brad (Ben Stiller) has anxiety. He has insomnia and a general sense of discomfit, ennui and malaise. There’s no reason for Brad to feel this way — he has a nice, comfortable suburban home, a sweet wife (Jenna Fischer), a smart son. But what Brad doesn’t have is status. The kind of status (and most importantly, money) attained by his successful college friends. For Brad, his lack of status obliterates every good thing in his life.
In “Brad’s Status,” writer-director (and co-star) Mike White dives deeply into the life-comparison trap that’s become so virulent in the social-media age. This midlife crisis happens to fall on the week of his son’s college tour to the East Coast (or is it because of the college tour?) where father and son, Brad and Troy (Austin Abrams), explore what life might be like as a Harvard man.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Brad’s Status,’ with Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Mike White, Luke Wilson. Written and directed by White. 101 minutes. Rated R for language. Several theaters.
Some of Stiller’s best performances have been in roles where he inhabits a kind, gentle neuroticism, uncomfortable in his own skin but never wanting to make anyone else too uncomfortable. His Brad is just that, and coupled with White, Brad’s journey becomes an existential, spiritual one.
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While Brad shepherds his son around Cambridge, it offers him the chance to reflect on his own college days at Tufts with a tight-knit group of guys who went on to become hedge-fund managers (Luke Wilson), political pundits (Michael Sheen), tech moguls (Jemaine Clement) and movie directors (White). As for Brad, well, his online magazine failed and now he runs a small nonprofit.
His overactive imagination fueled by rumor, jealousy and Instagram, Brad pictures the crisp, perfectly filtered lives of his comrades.
When he finally learns to settle into the moment, it’s a beautiful and quiet revelation, rendered with White’s singular sensitivity and gentle touch.