Tag: Ben Stiller


The Meyerowitz Stories

October 23rd, 2017 — 7:05am

*****

The Meyerowitz Stories

As we eased ourselves into this movie and we meet Harold (Dustin Hoffman), the not quite successful New York sculptor in his senior years, we could not help but remind ourselves how we and this wonderful actor have come a long way since he played the young man who was so enamored by the older Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. This time, Hoffman is playing a very self-centered man who has had four marriages and three wives (he married one of them twice), as well as three children.

Screenwriter and director, Noah Baumbach provides a magnificent insight into the feelings of these three grown children and how their inner emotional life has been impacted by their father who clearly shows how he cares more about his narcissistic needs than the feelings of his children. Adam Sandler turns in what we believe could be an award winning performance as Danny, newly divorced, who despite how he suffered growing up by the lack of love and recognition by his father, appears to have raised an accomplished daughter (Grace Van Patten) who is entering into a film study program at Bard College (although her film work is interestingly bizarre). An almost equally fine performance was given by Ben Stiller who plays the successful son Matthew who lives on the other coast in Los Angeles as a financial manager to the stars but appears to be also damaged by his early relationship with his father. We see that he also hasn’t achieved a good marriage but is trying to be a good father to his five-year-old son. The interaction between the two grown sons is riveting and range from fierce physical fighting to showing insight into each other’s feelings.

The supporting cast of this movie is quite strong with several well-known and recognized actors. This includes Emma Thompson as Harold’s alcoholic current wife, Elizabeth Marvel as Harold’s third grown child, Candice Bergen as Matthew’s mother and one of Harold’s ex-wives, and Judd Hirsch, a friend and a more successful artist.

If this movie achieves the recognition we believe it deserves, it will not only be because of this great ensemble of actors, but it will be due to the talent of director/writer Noah Baumbach who also was involved in writing some of the very appropriate music heard in the background of this film. We certainly put this movie on the do-not-miss list. (2017)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

While We’re Young

September 12th, 2015 — 6:45am

***Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.57.48 PM

While We’re Young -nf

Noah Baumbach is a prolific filmmaker who is best known for the award winning movie The Squid and the Whale (2005) that he wrote and directed. It was probably semi-autobiographical as it told the story of two boys in Brooklyn dealing with the divorce of their parents.  

This current film 10 years later which was released in March of 2015 is about a middle-aged couple in their 40s, Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) who encounter a younger couple Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who are in their mid 20s and seem to be “living in the moment” and enjoying life the way the older couple believe they did when they were that age. This leads Josh and Cornelia to do a great deal of self -reflection. Stiller’s character is a documentary filmmaker who hasn’t achieved the success that he hoped for and seemed to be stuck in the rut in many ways including being obsessively involved in one film for the past 10 years (An interesting sidebar is that the subject of this Josh’s film is a historian who is played by Peter Yarrow of the 1960s folk singer group Peter, Paul and Mary). In fact, Josh and Cornelia’s marriage also seem stuck as they ambivalently accept the plight of their not having children while all their friends are reproducing. Josh’s new friend seems to value him as a mentor, which is initially quite flattering to him. This new couple, Jamie and Darby, seem to be enjoying life and doing all the things that the couple in their 40s hasn’t been able to do. The storyline by Baumbach allows us to understand and empathize with the struggle of Josh and Cornelia. Not surprising however, things are all not what they seem to be as this film ultimately has an interesting reveal.

Each of the veteran actors mentioned above are excellent including Charles Grodin who plays Cornelia’s father who is a very successful veteran documentary filmmaker who while depicting his character’s elderly wisdom still conveys the actor’s comedic self.

Whenever there is a film about the inside working of some aspects of the moviemaking business (documentary films included), we expect that the filmmakers are giving us the inside scoop from their real life experience. That may very well be the case here but it is also a penetrating look of the struggle of many people trying to go through the process of maturing as adults. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

January 3rd, 2014 — 8:10pm

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -rm

There is a little bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. Who hasn’t had a daydream of being a hero, flying in a plane or a helicopter on some mission, jumping through some dangerous obstacle, defeating the villain and winning over the object of your affection? This ability to fantasize at any time, any place, can carry us out of any mundane situation and temporarily put us on top of the world. It is the universality of this state of mind, which made the skillfully penned short story by James Thurber written in 1939, endure and become one of the most frequently anthologized stories in American literature. The derivative word “Mittyesque “ lives on in the English language meaning an ineffectual person who spends time in heroic daydreams rather than dealing with reality. The first Walter Mitty movie, which didn’t follow the plot of the Thurber short story, starred Danny Kaye and came out in 1947. Nor does the current movie with the screenplay by Steve Conrad, although the theme does befit Walter Mitty. In this story Life Magazine is closing and  converting to an all online media. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a behind the scenes negative analyst (meaning he analyzes and fixes up negatives of photographs of pictures, which appear in this iconic publication.) There is to be one last issue of the magazine before it closes and Mitty has taken on the responsibility of tracking down a lost negative sent in by a great photojournalist (Sean Penn) who travels the world to capture magnificent pictures. Mitty has a secret crush on co-worker Cheryl Melhoff  (Kristen Wiig) with whom he timidly interacts with in real life and of course is quite dashing in his secret daydreams. In his quest of the missing negative  Mitty travels the world, ends up in Greenland and then Iceland, takes dangerous helicopter rides, climbs gigantic magnificent mountains and skateboards down them, faces man made dangers well as the perils of nature including a shark. At times it may be a little disconcerting as a there is a blur between whether we are seeing the real actions of Mitty or his fantasy life. This is not a movie about another superhero. The attempt here is to make Mitty possibly be anyone or everyone. Stiller’s face, his acting along with his outstanding directing, with a full, well thought out sound track, a 90 million dollar budget including shooting in Iceland as well as generous very effective CGIs, achieves this goal. An added bonus is Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother. In the end, we are moved and touched by the film so it is probably worth the budget and what may be the longest end of movie credits that we have seen in a long time (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Greenberg

September 6th, 2010 — 8:44am

Greenberg* *
Greenberg
– rm – Screenwriter and Director Noah Baumbach (who gave us The Squid and the Whale) presents us with Roger Greenberg who is comfortably inhabited by Ben Stiller. This single guy in his forties, now a New Yorker, working as a carpenter, recently in a mental hospital, returns to Los Angeles to housesit for his brother who is taking his family on vacation in Viet Nam. He looks up some old friends who were members of his band back then and are at various places now in their lives. His reminiscence with them and his encounters with some younger generation guys and gals seem to be trying to tell a story of the difficulties that one goes through in trying to negotiate to a successful stable life and relationship. The problem is that there is very little back-story with Roger and it is near impossible to understand or get much of a feel why he is having so much trouble. We are left with a self centered, obsessive guy whom you imagine is suffering on some level. The story doesn’t really go any place and we are really not very enlightened about the characters. Greta Gerwig plays the personal assistant of his brother who also ran the household where Roger is staying and with whom he makes some tentative attempts to have a relationship. Her performance stands out as she creates a very sensitive, likable but sad young woman who desperately wants to be loved and have a relationship but doesn’t quite know how to do it. It is unclear if the title of the movie implies something Jewish, perhaps some stereotype of Jewish angst? The Stiller character mentions that that his father was Jewish but not his mother but we are not sure what that was supposed to mean. Perhaps in the future when Baumbach gives us characters who have figured out their lives, we will look back and realize this was an earlier phase of his work when things were more confused. (2010)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Drama

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