Another Gorgeous Slice of Life: Brad’s Status

Thanks to my benevolent friend Carrie, I sat in luxury leather to watch Brad’s Status. And not just anywhere, but in the hometown of one of the film’s stars (read on to find out!).

But that’s not why I liked the film. The story by Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl) was not only extremely realistic in portraying the awkward relationship parents have with their late adolescents ready to leave the nest for college, but was also produced it in such a way to also detail the interior mind of a middle aged man with social anxiety.

We all have an interior monologue going on in our heads (come on admit talking to yourself:) and movie voice overs can sometimes be cringe worthy. But Ben Stiller has a presence and a voice that makes you feel camaraderie, like, “Yeh man, I know what you’re talking about!”.

The awkward silences and stoicism of parent-child relationships were very well done as were the college finance and major questions, the hope-you get-into-a-prestiguous-school, but how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-pay-for-it struggle? The you’re-a-great-musician vs. can-you-make-a-living-wage-at-it?

Austin Abrams who played Ben’s son is the aforementioned native of my new home town of Sarasota*:, and walks a talented line between tolerant and ready to explode upon his awkward dad. *In fact, for shame distributors! It’s only playing in one theater in Sarasota!

Class struggle was also gracefully, but honestly handled. Living in Sarasota means seeing a wide range of incomes. Those of us in the middle class can’t help but feel occasional envy at the mega wealthy. Brad’s four friends in the latter category were portrayed just enough for us to understand without straying from the main story. Mike White (yes he wrote it, directed it and acted in it) Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords(PLEASE do more movies, I love you!) all do stand out performances in minor roles.

In fact the beauty of a good movie is that the story makes you think more about it after the fact. For instance, did Michael Sheen’s character have accurate info on his wealthy buddies or was he simply as envious as Ben Stiller?

Definitely worth the CineBistro price. Go root, root, root for the home boy Austin Abrams while the film is still in town!

Mistaken for Strangers, Sibling Rivalry Galore!

Sarasota-20140218-05124Having been quite jealous when my little brother ‘showed up’ when I was just 3, I was fascinated with the documentary “Mistaken for Strangers” about The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger un-leaded brother Tom. (Aside, I love my brother to death, see photo of us as concert chums for Paul Simon and Sting 3/14, and if anything, much of our younger day rivalry was adult driven.)

This film’s a definite must-see for anyone who feels like the lesser sibling, anyone who wants to make it big with the band (The National had to start from scratch like most bands and Matt tells a touching story of being booked at The Mercury Lounge in the early days and NOBODY showed-ouch), and anyone who feels passionate creativity, but never quite seems to make it.

The footage of different cities is minimal (though Ben Stiller seems to have a clone miming on the streets of London), but that’s ok, it’s about family dynamics first and foremost.

Two scenes in particular were so telling I wonder if there were purposely added in or if its merely the nature of the (family) beast.  First was a childhood photograph of Matt and Tom holding the day’s fish catch, Matt’s being the much larger one and prescient of life’s pegging Tom as forever the small fry.  The second was of Tom being allowed to screen his doc before a National concert in NYC and the yet the screen is merely the backdrop to mountainous drums, speakers and instruments; Tom always foreshadowed or behind his big bro.

Other classic scenes involved Matt giving the cliched, “think of this as an opportunity for growth”‘ speech and laughing at Tom’s confession of frustration tears.  Success can breed apathy, no doubt.  You’ve heard of sore losers (which Tom is definitely NOT), yet Matt can come off as a sore winner.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m a back door fan of The National, proudly first hearing of them in the soundtrack for Starbuck (a French film, see previous review) and then seeing a mesmerizingly sexy performance of them on SNL.  But my lust waned after seeing this film, mainly because although Tom is definitely 50% to blame for self-sabotaging, his patronizing family, cocky tour managers, and apathetic record store owners are certainly no Swiss picnic, nor confidence boosters.