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!

Heads Spin, Beatrix at Dinner

Ok, my head is spinning from Beatrix at Dinner, directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White (School of Rock! The Good Girl!).

And by heads spin, I mean spinning in both positive and negative rotations.

The positive: Salma Hayek is dynamite, in fact, the entire ensemble was absolute perfection:females: Britton, Landecker, Sevigny; males: Lithgow (extra star!), Warshovsky (where’d you come from? you’re excellent!) and Duplass (the perfect d-bag).

Another positive: the story by Mike White nails class differences and the subsequent uncomfortable moments when classes mix. I understand that now more than ever living in Sarasota. In my previous life (Rochester and Bloomfield, NY), my position of teacher was for the most part upper middle class. I didn’t even see or really understand those below me. Sure, certainly I saw the dichotomy of classes in Bloomfield, we had everyone from equestrian aristocrats to mobile home multiple job occupants. And for the most part, everyone there accepted and could associate without awkwardness, which is a tremendous testament to how special Bloomfield really is.

And Sarasota is pretty special, too, in that I see people being really civil to each other. With rare exception, the wealthy people I know here are super nice. The difference is though that many of the wealthy people I know don’t really understand (or perhaps are simply ignoring or self-centered) the plight of those below them. Some of the folks I work with far wealthier than me with double incomes will agonize and pontificate about how few garments they’re allowed on an African safari, for one example, yet never turn the spotlight back to you about how your coping making ends meet with your pre-pension two job salary. They never get to hear me whine back about my intimidation with requesting air conditioning maintenance (it’s not working) because I am hoping my (wealthy) landlord will renew my lease at the same rent for one more year.

Having said all that, Beatrix at Dinner dares to cross these waters with great success.

The only negatives of the film were: the slow start, again, editing issue (as with The Lovers) and second, just a few loose ends with connecting the dots between real and metaphorical.

Beyond those tiny problems, Beatrix at Dinner should garner Salma an Academy Award Best Actress nomination, and even Lithgow for Best Supporting. Go see it!