‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ – Film Review

An all-star cast provides some enjoyable LOLs playing a family of oddballs

If there’s one absolute truth to be drawn from The Meyerowitz Stories it’s that any film would be improved with a couple of scenes of Dustin Hoffman running. It’s not the confident charge he had in Marathon Man. He’s 80 now. It’s just a shuffle with slightly raised knees – a walk with ambitions. Like a gerbil that hasn’t noticed someone’s stolen his wheel. It happens two or three times here and it’s hard to explain why it’s always funny, but that’s true of many moments in Noah Baumbach’s latest, and in fact all his movies. There aren’t really jokes or even necessarily situations that sound amusing in isolation, but there’s a rhythm to his scenes and his characters’ very carefully chosen words that comes off as funny. His people are very slightly detached from the world and unaware of their own oddness. He has innate wit.

This is a wandering account of the Meyerowitz family. Hoffman’s Harold is the head, married to a bohemian drunk (Emma Thompson). His children are Danny (Adam Sandler), an overly clingy single father who isn’t doing much with his life; Matthew (Ben Stiller), a Hollywood accountant who has loads of money and no fun; and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), who gets on with things undramatically and has made her peace with being largely ignored.

There’s not an enormous amount more to it than simply that. Baumbach gets plenty of mileage out of simply letting these people awkwardly interact, trying, not very successfully, to keep unkind honesty tamped down while they watch each other make horrible life decisions. It’s the kind of comedy where a lot could be solved by people sitting down and calmly clearing the air, but the laughs come from doing the opposite.

Years of resentments keep popping to the surface in a series of snippy gatherings. It’s better in the first half, before it’s about anything. The second half brings some plot into the mix and it strangely loses some energy by burdening itself with having to resolve conflicts. It’s still very funny, but less so than just hanging out with these people. They’re great to be around, even if they’re not enjoying it.