Movie review by Ade Braithwaite
Stars: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Grace Van Patten
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
The cast drew me in long before the first shock of seeing Danny (Adam Sandler) with daughter (Grace Van Patten) close up mid tirade of expletives as he fails to park a few times in downtown New York. This film is a humorous sliced and diced view of an eccentric modern day family’s relationships as it comes together to see their youngest member off to college. The acting was mostly superb in the form of Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler but Ben Stiller seemed to be wearing his usual manic suit of fast talking hyper active wise cracking self. Emma Thompson’s American accent seemed patchy in places and I thought she could have done more with her eccentric character.
Reading between the scripted lines I got the sense of improvisation but the authenticity of dialogue totally captured the banality of sibling rivalry. There were a number of hard cuts such as cutting to another scene mid scream. This became jarring as these are not often seen in big budget movies, or small ones for that matter. Whether this was meant to be stylist or a malfunction of the edit you decide?
Dustin Hoffman as Harold was pure class and played a cantankerous grumpy self-important and deluded old man quick to judge and quick to protest to perfection. You couldn’t help being fond of him and willing him back on screen whenever he was off; despite his mischievous favouritism some would even say cruel meddling nature.
Adam Sandler as Danny, impressed me with his dramatic chops but less so with the comedic ones although perhaps I’m being too hard. He always seems to have a soothing feel good gentle side when talking seriously on weighty matters and underlines his performance with dramatic poignancy, for me he should be doing more out and out dramatic roles going forward.
Emma Thompson as Maureen seemed funnier out of vision and her cooking or lack of it stole a few laughs from her. Much kudos to Emma for not opting for a glossy made up look. She clearly is a good sport and looked naturally blotchy which sort of matched her performance which was good in places but not so good in others, a little bland at times unlike her makeup.
The film was fresh and funny in many places, a lot of it by way of absurd situations such as only Harold and Danny in black ties at an art exhibitions and fielding questions as to where they were off to. There were some truly funny characterisations and as mentioned the good dialogue was peppered throughout with jokes. However the funny seemed more about situations and referencing off screen things but it did tackle step sibling competitiveness for their father’s affection well.
I found myself crying from laughter in a lot of places. I laugh easily so crying is perhaps a bit too strong a word. I did have tears streaming down my cheeks on more than one occasion. If you like your comedy with a serious message then you will love this film. It was a funny and masterfully acted portrayal of emotional immaturity in a few slices of a modern day family unit’s reunion. The cutting off of a scene before its natural end though was extremely…