In Brad’s Status – an indie comedy-drama, a father going through a midlife crisis takes his son to tour colleges on the East Coast, and meets up with an old friend who makes him feel even more inferior about his life’s choices.
The main plot of this film can be summed up in the following: it is the story of 47 year old Brad (Ben Stiller) who goes through a midlife crisis and contemplates the decisions he’s made in his life. During this journey, set in Boston while on a college tour with his son who will be finishing high school soon, he comes to learn that what he has in his upper-middle class life is more than most people could dream of. In Brad’s own words, he is still here, he is still breathing. Brad comes across as a bit self-obsessed and egotistic and has a lifelong anxiety he carries with him about not ending up as part of the 1% with a lot of wealth and fame, like the rest of his college buddies. Writer and intellectual Gore Vidal said, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies,” which is probably exactly how Brad felt as well.
Visually, this film was quite uninteresting and felt like it lacked a lot. The cinematography came over as very un-creative and a missed opportunity to have done so much more to colour in Brad’s world. However, Stiller gives a stellar performance and one can genuinely feel and sympathize with his character. It is really as if he and Brad became the same person. Maybe this is because Stiller truly is at that point of his life now – who knows?
The sweeping camera and frequent narration by Stiller throughout the film, with not much else happening, gave this film a bit of a slow feeling. Too slow. The last scene of the movie is the most beautiful part and rounded up the film elegantly; It was at this moment that I truly felt the sadness with Brad, instead of just being annoyed with his cranky bearing and ungratefulness. Even though we’ve seen this plot and themes in numerous other films, credit must be given to filmmaker Mike White for the fresh spin on it. You leave the cinema with a certain emptiness and not sure what to feel really, not sure whether you enjoyed what you just experienced or not. Which is not always a bad thing.
The movie definitely didn’t wow me, but it’s not a bad film and definitely unique. It was as if it was written with a vague outline of where to take the plot and story, but never truly succeeded in executing it properly. This leaves Brad’s Status with a lot of confusing gaps. Some scenes seem a bit out-of-nowhere and random, and should have been better thought through before filming started. There are a lot of collections of small vignettes that lures the viewer in, but then goes nowhere and just drops you in the heat of things. Maybe this should have just been a very high budget short film instead of this (kind of) low budget indie feature. However, if you enjoyed Stiller’s other recent appearances in films such as Greenberg and Permanent Midnight, you’ll enjoy this one as well.
Brad’s Status is written and directed by Mike White, and stars Ben Stiller. It’s in cinemas on 12 January.