We live in an age of comparison. With various social media platforms at our fingertips, the temptation to check up on our old acquaintances is all to constant. If you remember someone’s name, chances are you can find out how their life is going, or at least how they present their lives online. There may be a small sense of smug satisfaction if your life is going better. It’s okay, though. Someone from your past is a high-flyer and they’re inadvertently knocking you down a peg. Suddenly, your nice new Ford Focus is not enough of a Porsche for your liking. And here we have the premise for Brad’s Status.
Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) has a regular life; he’s in a happy marriage with a cheery and supportive wife (Jenna Fischer) and his son is about to go to college. Troy (Austin Abrams) isn’t headed for run-of-the-mill college, either. The movie is set around a trip to Boston so they can look at Harvard. Not-amazing-enough-Brad’s son is a musical prodigy who could “basically get into any college he applies to”. It’s a pretty sweet set-up to have. Well, it would be. Brad’s old college friends are extremely rich. Happy family life be damned, Brad wants a private jet.
It makes sense for the main character to be living a content life – dissatisfaction can hit anyone. However, it does leave your voice hoarse after shouting at him for an hour and a half.
He spends the duration of the film being infuriatingly human: contradictory, self-serving and regretful. His thoughts are not one-track, instead constantly questioning the key aspects of his life. He raised a good kid… but his good kid has an interest that doesn’t pay well. He loves his wife…but she’s happy with everything and never made him do something greater.
As is the case for most of us, the dream lives Brad thinks his friends – Craig, Billy, Jason and Nick – are living are not what they seem. His perception is distorted by his own memory and limited updates. Corruption, alcoholism and generally being an ass have taken their toll on their private lives. When these revelations come out, Brad is finally able to appreciate what he has and the audience can finally stop screaming.
As a premise for a small movie, it’s solid. It’s relatable to a point but Brad isn’t particularly likeable and that’s not how people want to consider themselves. He becomes too absorbed in resentment for his choices, risking ruining his son’s chances. We don’t know enough about the kind of parent he was before the film’s events to judge if this is a lapse.
Performances in the movie are just fine. There’s not much room to put in an excellent performance or to ruin everything completely. Austin Abrams comes closest to a bad performance. He mumbles his way through the script, as if he’s not quite sure what his lines are but thinks young people don’t bother with clear speech so it doesn’t matter.
As is expected, no major ambition inspires the cinematography or music. There is the confusing choice to use a handheld camera for some conversations and the camera moves around far more than a head normally would but otherwise the shots are standard.
IMDb has this listed as a comedy-drama. One of those words is accurate. This isn’t a case of ‘the jokes aren’t funny’, more that they just aren’t really there apart from a few throwaway sentences (which aren’t funny). At one point Brad imagines kids saying “Stop being so cis,” and it’s such a desperate and jarring attempt at a joke that it induces physical cringing.
Overall, it’s an okay movie that pushes for some self-reflection: “Do I appreciate everything I have?”, “Am I happy for my friends or jealous?”, “Did I mumble that much as a teenager and, if so, how did anyone understand what I said?”. Also, delete your Facebook.
Brad’s Status will be released on DVD April 30th
Dir: Mike White
Scr: Mike White
Cast: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson, Shazi Raja, Luisa Lee, Mike White
Prd: David Bernad, Sarah Esberg, Dede Gardner, Carla Hacken, Mark Kamine, Sidney Kimmel, Jeremy Kleiner, Mark O’Connor, John Penotti, Brad Pitt, Dylan Tarason, Bruce Toll
DOP: Xavier Grobet
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Runtime: 97 mins