Title: Brad’s Status
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mike White
Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer
Runtime: 1 hr 41 min
What It Is: While on a trip touring colleges with his son, Brad (Stiller) has a major midlife meltdown. He lives a content life. He has his own non-profit, a successful wife (Fischer) and a son going off to an Ivy League school. However, when he starts to compare his life to the lives of his rich college friends (Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson, White, Jemaine Clement), he starts to question just how happy he really is.
What We Think: This is not a story that deserves to be told; it’s another entry into the “rich white people with problems” genre. Everyone has problems. Everyone with social media will, at one point or another, get jealous of their high school friend posting pictures swimming with dolphins in Bali. Why should we care about Brad? He is successful. His kid is smart enough to get into Harvard. His wife is making bank. Stiller is so good at playing neurotic milquetoasts, but his take on Brad is like a 14-year-old girl who got grounded and is now sulking and watching Snapchats in her room. Writer/director White also obnoxiously uses droll voice-overs and fantasy sequences that made me want to scream, “Check your privilege!” The only thing truly authentic is the relationship between Stiller and Abrams. White kids love to stay the f-word to their parents with wanton disregard.
Our Grade: C-, Everything in Brad’s Status is so very minor. Noah Baumbach takes a lot of heat for his “rich white people with problems” movies, but his characters are subversive enough to endanger their life of privilege. Here, White presents Brad as just another vanilla guy in his late forties who’s concerned that his old friend has a private plane. The ending attempts to make Brad feel better, but it’s cruelly manipulative and mean. Instead of an existential trip with his son, Brad should’ve just got some testosterone replace therapy or an anti-depressant. Get it together, dude!