When I saw the trailer for Writer-Director Mike White’s Brad’s Status, I really considered including it in my 2017 Fall Movie Preview. It looked like a good comedy with a great cast, but something held me back. Now that I’ve seen it, I not only wish I had included it in my preview, I also wish I could make everyone I know go see it.
The film follows Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller), a father and husband in his late forties going through something of a midlife crisis. Brad works and runs his own non-profit organization and loves his wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and his son, Troy (Austin Abrams), a musical prodigy. However, when Brad takes Troy on a trip to visit Harvard and Tufts—Brad’s alma mater—he begins to think about his old college buddies and how successful they are in their lives. Craig (Michael Sheen) is a hotshot political consultant and talking head on TV, Billy (Jemaine Clement) sold his tech company and retired early to the islands, Jason (Luke Wilson) is a mega-wealthy hedge fund manager, and Nick (Mike White) is a successful Hollywood director. Compared to his friends’ high-profile successes, Brad feels his life is less somehow and he has to deal with his feelings of inadequacy before they devour him.
I absolutely loved this film. The story really spoke to me and Stiller gives one of the best performances of his career. White’s direction here is great, but it’s the writing that really stands out. The script is extremely funny and sharp. I feel like a lot of people feel the way that Brad does in this film, but no one ever really says it—well, except Morrissey, who said it in his own morbid way in the song, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” It’s especially true in this social media age we live in, where people put their entire lives on display, but you sometimes have to wonder how carefully cultivated their public identities are. Of course, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it’s the way that White has Brad work out his demons that make the film so great.
The cast is dynamite. Brad’s friends are all hilarious in their time on screen and Stiller is fantastic, even when he’s delivering Brad’s constant internal monologue that voices his stream of consciousness doubts and fears. Abrams does fine work here, holding his own with a veteran like Stiller, and Fischer is great in her scenes. I actually wish we could have had more of her character, but it’s always great to see Pam. I also really enjoyed Shazi Raja as Troy’s friend at Harvard. She also has some great scenes with Stiller as Brad tries to impart wisdom onto her.
Your mileage may vary based on how much the story speaks to you and how much you like Ben Stiller, but for my money, Brad’s Status is one of the year’s best.