Brad’s Status review: Mike White, accomplished screenwriter of the likes of Nacho Libre, The Good Girl and School Of Rock, makes his second directorial effort with the comedy drama Brad’s Status.

Brad’s Status review by Paul Heath, September 2017.

Brad's status review

Ben Stiller plays the titular character of Brad Sloan, a forty-something family man who is wrestling with a personal crisis in that he feels that his own life pails in comparison to that of his former university friends. We meet his as he is about to embark on a journey to Massachusetts where his 17-year-old son Troy (Austin Abrams) is interviewing for potential college placements.

His journey to the East Coast sees him having to interact with his former friends – political TV personality and best-selling author Craig Fisher (Michael Sheen), retired businessman Billy Wearslter (Jermaine Clement), who now spends his time on the sun-kissed island of Hawaii with his two girlfriends, and hedge fund boss and private jet owner Jason Hatfield (Luke Wilson). Brad has his own business, a non-profit enterprise that he set up some years before, while his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) has her own career though has limited aspirations in life professionally.

Related: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) review

As Brad becomes more and more involved with his three-day tour of a series of Ivy League universities, his inferiority complex grows more and more, and he finds himself constantly reflecting on his position in the world, and whether he still loves it, and whether it indeed still loves him.

Ben Stiller is finding himself on a bit of a role presently, the actor delivering another top-notch job in a row following Netflix comedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. While slightly overshadowed by Adam Sandler’s impressive turn in that film, Stiller has Brad’s Status all to himself, his named co-stars very much supporting players.

Brad's status review

Michael Sheen is elegantly slimey as D.C. commentator Fisher, while Jermaine Clement delivers more laughs in a very limited appearance as well. Abrams’ subdued, focussed and well behaved young Troy is perfectly cast, and delivers a laid back, near-perfect performance.

The gifted Stiller also gives a heartfelt performance from the off, even though for the first twenty minutes or so, one can’t quite sympathise with his first-world problems that he seems to be having. Thankfully, Mike White has all of the answers, and we just about manage to stick with him and be on his side as he continues his own journey of self-discovery as he helps his son lay his future out ahead of him.

The film is funny, but not in your typical goofball Stiller kind of way. The film, as you’d expect from a writer behind the likes of Year Of The Dog, and this year’s Sundance break-out Beatriz At Dinner, is firmly in the more dramatic category, the laughs coming from a more subtle performance from its leading man, and a very hilarious, clever and well-crafted screenplay.

It’s the kind of film that you may have expected Stiller to have had a crack at directing himself, but Mike White is more than capable of pulling something special off himself. The film is heartfelt, sometimes emotional, captivating from the off and rewarding come the closing credits.

Brad’s Status review by Paul Heath, September 2017.

Brad’s Status plays at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

Brad's Status