A middle-aged man gazes inward and doesn’t like what he’s seeing. That’s the premise of Brad’s Status, a bittersweet comedy from writer/director Mike White (The Good Girl).
Ben Stiller plays Brad Sloan, a bloke on the edge of a meltdown. He’s reevaluating his life’s worth and achievements. A trip to Boston with his college-bound son Troy (Austin Abrams) triggers a crisis of confidence. Brad has a satisfying career, having started a not-for-profit. He’s built a comfortable life in suburban Sacramento where he lives with his sweet-natured wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and Troy, who’s a musical prodigy. But it’s not quite what he imagined during his glory days at college.
Showing Troy around Boston (where he went to university), Brad can’t help comparing his life to those of his four best college friends. They are: Nick (White), a Hollywood big-shot; hedge-fund founder Jason (Luke Wilson); tech entrepreneur Billy (Jemaine Clement); and Craig (Michael Sheen), a political pundit and bestselling author .
As he imagines their wealthy, glamorous lives, he wonders if cozy middle-class domesticity is the best he will ever achieve. But when circumstances force him to reconnect with his former friends, Brad begins to question whether he has really failed or if, in some essential ways, their lives are more flawed than they appear.
I largely appreciated the sentiments expressed in the film and its approach, even if I felt the pacing was too pedestrian at times. Perhaps that is merely a reflection of my occasional angst at the deadpan delivery of the “thought track”.
Stiller pulls off his character – caring, considered and overbearing – with aplomb. Sheen, too steps comfortably into the role of the arrogant media celebrity. Abrams (Paper Towns) shows little emotion and in so doing channels Troy’s laidback approach. Newcomer Shari Raja makes quite an impression as Troy’s idealistic but grounded friend.
The kids in this piece are the ones with a grip. They teach Brad a thing or two. So, my take home from all this is that reflection is one thing, but becoming mired in it is another entirely … and ultimately quite self-destructive.