Life sucks. Then you get old. Then die. Yep. That’s about it.
Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) has a pretty nice life. A great wife (Jenna Fischer), who’s incredibly supportive of him, a cushy job, a quaint suburban house, a few friends, and a son, Troy (Austin Abrams), who’s something of a musical-prodigy and all ready to head off to college. But Brad still has an issue with his life and where he’s been heading in the past many years; for instance, his former-pals from college are all rich, successful, and living far more luxurious lifestyles than he is, which gets him thinking. Like a lot. And it sort of begins to ruin the trip that he has with his son, where they’re off visiting colleges like Harvard and Yale, all for the hopes that Troy will join the likes of the many greats who have come and gone there before him. Brad, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about his life and what the hell he’s going to do next. Basically, he’s just going through a mid-life crisis – he just doesn’t really seem to know it yet.
Writer/director Mike White knows what he’s talking about here and because of that, Brad comes off a lot more sympathetic than he probably should have been. While no doubt everything that Brad is yelling, ranting, raving, complaining, and getting all upset about is nothing more than just white first-world problems, it still feels relevant and interesting. We may not agree with everything that he’s pissed-off about – not having enough money, wanting to see other people, wishing that he was working for a different place – but we can sort of see where he’s coming from and it helps make Brad more interesting and relatable, as opposed to just another rambling, bumbling, and angry white guy who truly has nothing to worry about.
Like at all.
And that’s why Brad’s Status both works and also doesn’t. It works because it features some smart and snappy writing about real life issues that everyone faces at least once or twice in their existences. But it’s also bad because that’s literally all Brad’s Status is about; just when we’re introduced to a new character, or possibly even, a new conflict, we know it’s only a matter of time until something irritates Brad and he has to let his mind loose. It’s a convention we see coming, again and again, and it makes Brad annoying, but the writing seem cheap and sitcom-y.
Which, coming from Mike White, is a bit of a disappointment. He ought to know better and not really fall back onto this sort of stuff that seems like a lame fall-back. And it isn’t like because Brad can sometimes be an asshole, means that he’s not watchable – some of the most compelling characters are the ones you love to hate – it’s just that he’s a bit of a bore. His issues are relevant and, at some point, understandable, but there comes a point when one has to shut up and move on, and Brad’s Status, much like Brad himself, doesn’t seem to.
The one real aspect keeping Brad’s Status moving is Ben Stiller who, once again, seems to really playing to his strengths, albeit, in a much more dramatic-manner.
But it’s a solid turn from Stiller who seems to get off on playing these overachieving, annoying perfectionists, but actually injects some real heart and humanity into him. We see a lot of that play out in the relationship he has with his son here, who is already an interesting character in the first place. Normally, with these kinds of movies where the dad’s a bit of a bummer, the kids generally seem to hate them and loathe their even existence, but Abrams’ Troy. In a way, Troy loves his dad more than even Brad knows or even notices, and it’s why Brad’s Status remains a much smarter movie than you’d expect – there’s an actual feeling of love and emotion somewhere to be found beneath all of the ranting.
Much like real life rants.
Consensus: With an exceptional lead performance from Stiller, Brad’s Status works as an interesting, if also troubling character-study of a relatable, but also annoying person that we may all grow to become one day.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios