Published Sep 09, 2017Comedic actor Ben Stiller successfully showed off some middle-aged angst in Noah Baumbach's 2014 TIFF selection While We're Young, and he's drawing emotions from that same well once again with the expertly crafted, anxiety-inducing dramedy Brad's Status, the latest film from Mike White (Chuck & Buck, Enlightened).
Stiller plays Brad Sloan, a father living in suburban Sacramento who decides to take his college-bound son, Troy (The Walking Dead's Austin Abrams), on a tour of some Massachusetts schools — Harvard and his alma mater Tufts among them. Along the way, he reflects on the perceived successes of his former friends from college — Michael Sheen, as a professor-turned-CNN correspondent; Luke Wilson, as a high-powered businessman with a rich wife and private jet; and Jemaine Clement, as a software developed-turned-young retiree — and questions whether or not he made the right moves in life. As the story progresses, Brad realizes that the grass isn't always greener on the side, and there's more to happiness than just money and fame.
Neurotic and filled with nagging questions about life and love, Brad's Status deals in a kind of existential crisis that's broached midway through the movie when Stiller's character sits down for a drink with one of his son's old friends, a current Harvard student (Ananya, played by Shazi Raja) studying NGOs. Brad — who works in the field — advises her to sell out; Ananya, on the other hand, sees his complaints about his professional shortcomings and status amongst friends as little more than the griping of an old man with First World problems. ("You have enough," she tells him, emphatically, in one of the film's more powerful scenes.)
She's got a point, and Brad's Status is clearly, overwhelmingly told from a one-sided, male point of view. (Multiple times throughout the film Brad marvels at the way his wife, played by The Office's Jenna Fischer, is satisfied with so little, although we never get to hear her side of the story.)
There's no denying that Brad is detestable, but that doesn't mean his thoughts aren't relatable. If anything, Brad's Status might just be the wakeup call many men need.