I have a low tolerance for tales of privileged white guy ennui, so I’m pleased to tell you that Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller as a dad with an existential crisis, is (twist!) one I actually liked!
The latest from Mike White (director of Year of the Dog, and writer of Freaks and Geeks, Chuck & Buck, and Beatriz at Dinner), Brad’s Status perfectly captures the way anxious people avoid addressing big underlying fears by coming up with peripheral worries to quietly freak out about. Brad (Stiller) is one of these people: When a tour of New England colleges with his son sparks terror about his kid leaving home, and also death, he does what any good neurotic does and obsesses over something else. Namely, the fact his life—which includes a job running a nonprofit, being married to Pam from The Office, and enough money to take his kid to visit Harvard—may not measure up to those of his fancy bros from Tufts, who seem like a bunch of terrible people.
Thankfully, you don’t need to relate to Brad to appreciate his development. Brad’s is a slow arc of delayed maturation as he’s gradually reminded that, even though he isn’t young anymore, life is still worth living. Though I found it laughable that a person who owns a home, has a happy family life, and does work that aligns with his values would act like he’s really struck out in life, I also get it? Life is complicated and hard, no matter who you are.
Most importantly, White doesn’t let Brad off the hook: His privileged outlook and assumptions about other people are repeatedly challenged, and though it’s an endurance test to sit through some of his mildly creepy fantasies about his son’s cool young Harvard friends, Brad eventually realizes that he can admire young women in a nonsexual way. That shit’s entry-level, Brad, but I’m glad you’re learning. Better late than never.