I’ve been a fan of Ben Stiller for a long time and it’s great to see when he takes risks and does something a little more serious. I was underwhelmed by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty but this one gave me hope.
Brad’s Status stars Ben Stiller as Brad, a father that is getting ready to send his son (Austin Abrams) to college. They embark on a college tour through Boston, including Harvard and Tufts, where Brad himself went. This whole journey triggers a lot of memories for Brad and leaves him questioning his life decisions, especially compared to his much more “successful” friends, played by Luke Wilson, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, and Mike White (who also wrote and directed this film). We also have Jenna Fischer (The Office) as Brad’s wife.
This is one of Ben Stiller’s best performances, really showing a brilliant blend of drama and comedy, even his funniest bits including a hint of sadness and regret. It’s very layered.
The movie also brilliantly uses reality as a mechanism for showing what Brad is thinking. His daydreams and “what ifs” become real, so we can see the different ways his life could have gone. We also get a narration throughout the entire thing from Stiller, which gives us all the deep questions he’s constantly asking, though the narration can sometimes drag the energy down.
The other performances are great as well, including newcomer Austin Abrams as the son. Michael Sheen gets the most screentime of all the “friends” and he nails it, really putting into question everything we’ve heard from Brad. Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement only have a few scenes, really cameos as opposed to supporting characters.
The movie can be a bit slow, as the focus on narration can mean that our characters are just sitting around thinking. There are also relatively few plot points, so it can take awhile to get from point to point.
It also may not resonate with everyone. As a 30-something looking back on his college days, this movie was right up my alley. I’m constantly questioning the idea of success and how we compare to our peers. If you’re not relating to this, I’m not sure if this movie will manage to hook you or not. For younger audiences, this may not have that same allure.
Also the movie ends on a bit of an understated note, not really the emotional punch to the gut that I wanted.
Brad’s Status is great, if you can resonate with it. For me, I found it extremely compelling and one of Ben Stiller’s greatest performances. Some might find it slow, as it can take awhile between plot points, but I found it gripping and it caused me to even dive into my own memories, meaning this movie achieved its desired outcome.