Susan Granger’s review of “Brad’s Status” (Amazon Studios)
Writer/director Mike White tackles a particularly privileged mid-life crisis as a neurotic father takes his talented 17 year-old son on a New England college tour.
Although he lives in a beautiful suburban home in Sacramento, California, with his loving, supportive wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer), angst-riddled Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) never stops whining and complaining.
An idealist, he’s opted to work in the non-profit sector, which means he’s earned considerably less money than his Tufts University classmates.
There’s former White House press secretary-turned-author Craig (Michael Sheen), wealthy hedge-fund manager Jason (Luke Wilson), retired-in-Maui tech guru Billy (Jermaine Clement) and Hollywood director Nick (Mike White) whose $9 million mansion is on the cover of Architectural Digest.
“For them, the world isn’t a battlefield, it’s a playground,” Brad muses.
Now Brad’s off to visit East Coast colleges with his son Troy (Austin Abrams), a musical prodigy who has a good chance of being accepted at Harvard. Or, at least he would have, if he’d not messed up the date for his Admissions interview.
Determined to rectify the scheduling snafu, Brad tries calling his influential college classmates from whom he has felt estranged.
While he’s utterly convincing, Ben Stiller has played similar malcontent roles before – in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “While We’re Young” and, more recently, “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But his totally self-absorbed Brad Sloan seems somewhat smarmy, given today’s ‘real world’ problems.
Eventually, Brad gets his comeuppance from Troy’s flautist friend Ananya (Shazi Raja) but not before this middle-aged creep imagines running off with bikini-clad Ananya and another nubile undergrad.
Filmmaker Mike White indulges in seemingly endless fantasies and inner monologues, overly narrated by Ben Stiller. But it’s difficult to evoke sympathy for this resentful materialist. The more we know about him, the less we like him.