Rating: 4 out of 5
Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which is a compliment. This film features an eclectic ensemble of A-listers coming together to play a hilariously neurotic Jewish New York family. The film is episodic and very entertaining as these people collide against each other. And their banter is wickedly funny, even when they're grappling with some very dark themes. It's also a rare chance to see Adam Sandler shine in a non-silly role.
He's at the centre of the story as Danny, who has just split from his wife and moved back in with his cantankerous father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) and his loveably goofy fourth wife Maureen (Emma Thompson). Everyone in this family has artistic tendencies, including Danny, his sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) and Danny's 18-year-old daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten), who is heading off to university to study film. And then there's younger half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller), who abandoned art to become a wealthy businessman in Los Angeles. Danny and Jean have always felt ignored in Matthew's presence, and this comes out into the open when they all gather to help take care of Harold when he ends up in hospital.
The story is told in chapters that interrupt each other exactly like the characters do. Everyone talks at the same time, and no one listens, charging forward with whatever they want to say. This makes their conversations a riot of different topics heading in a variety of directions at the same time. This cast of scene-stealers is seriously gifted at this riotously funny chaos. Hoffman and Thomson win the battle, simply because they are so focussed on their self-absorbed characters. And as the story hones in on these half-brothers who don't really know each other, Sandler and Stiller find some very strong moments of their own.
The best thing here is the emerging sibling connection between Danny, Matthew and Jean, which bristles with jagged chemistry. And it's also fun to watch young Van Patten hold her own against all of these veteran hams. With all three generations dealing loudly with their own issues, the film sometimes begins to feel somewhat cacophonous, making it difficult to get a grip on what the movie is trying to say. But it's a striking portrait of a creative family, and it's perhaps a little too easy to identify with the way they bounce off each other without ever really knowing what makes their parents, children or siblings tick.
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Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Gilded Halfwing
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Cast & Crew
Director: Noah Baumbach
Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Adam Sandler as Danny Meyerowitz, Ben Stiller as Matthew Meyerowitz, Dustin Hoffman as Harold Meyerowitz, Emma Thompson as Maureen, Elizabeth Marvel as Jean Meyerowitz, Grace Van Patten as Eliza, Candice Bergen as Julia, Rebecca Miller as Loretta Shapiro, Danny Flaherty as Marcus, Mickey Sumner as Bard Woman, Jared Sandler as College Kid #2, Adam David Thompson as Brian, Lyne Renee as Nurse #1, Cindy Cheung as Dr. Soni, Sakina Jaffrey as Gallery Girl, Annabelle Dexter-Jones as College Kid, Marquis Rodriguez as Glenn Twitchell, David Cromer as Waiter, Jordan Carlos as Pam, Gayle Rankin as Nurse #2, Mandy Siegfried as Dr. Gonzalez, Victor Cruz as Gabe Perlin, Matthew Shear as European Man, Benjamin Thys as Restaurant Patron, Michael Birnberg as Doctor, Joel Bernstein as Paul's Nurse, Germar Terrell Gardner as Tourist #1, Takako Haywood as Hospital Patient, Michelle Santiago as Guy at the Gallery, Jason Daunno as Gallery Girl, Teniel Humeston as Barry, Ronald Peet as Gallery Marchant, Barbara Danicka as Gary, McManus Woodend as Robin, Justin Winley as Herself, Sigourney Weaver as Randy