I lie in bed and overthink everything in my life on a regular basis, but I don’t think everyone needs to hear about it. Writer/director Mike White (School of Rock, Beatriz at Dinner), however, thought that that kind of obsessive inner life monologue would make for a great film. Perhaps, though not this film. In Brad’s Status, Brad (Ben Stiller) is a dad about to take his only son (Austin Abrams ) on a college tour, and it throws him into a self-absorbed walk down memory lane where he compares his life with those of his classmates (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, and Luke Wilson) and comes up totally lacking. Though there is dialogue in the film, Brad’s voice-over dominates. And boy is he annoying.
Brad runs a non-profit in Sacramento and is happily married, living a nice middle class life, though early on we know he’s worried about money and doesn’t sleep much for all the depressive thoughts running around in his head. But when he takes off for the college tour and starts obsessing about his old pals, we go down the mid-life crisis rabbit hole, wherein he imagines his friends’ rich and beautiful lives in technicolor detail. Yes, they’re all wealthy and famous, and one is even retired, but as the film points out (in a pretty obvious manner) his are first world, white man problems. Meanwhile, his son is applying and interviewing at Harvard, and dad is entirely thinking about himself. And even after he’s able to call in a favor from one of his elite pals, he’s still swimming in a pool of self-pity. And in a twist I never saw coming, Brad has a semi-epiphany towards the end and realizes that he has a pretty great life.
Do you need to see this movie? No. Do you love Ben Stiller playing the neurotic guy whose life isn’t what he imagined? Did you see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Then you have that covered. Have a kid you’re taking on college tours? Then pay attention to them and don’t be a self-centered jerk of a parent like Brad. Brad’s Status is billed as a comedy, but it is decidedly not a funny movie. Skip it.
[Mainstream Chick weighs in: I liked Brad’s Status more than Arty Chick, mostly because I found myself still thinking about the movie and its message and going back and forth on whether it’s worth recommending to anyone who needs a Facebook reality check. While Brad does get extremely annoying as the film goes along, there’s no denying that he’s giving (inner)voice to certain feelings we can all relate to with respect to envy, bitter jealousy, or regret when seeing old friends and acquaintances living a seemingly ideal existence while we question where we are in life. Of course, the moral of the story is that we shouldn’t be so naive as to judge another person’s life by what we see on the pages of a magazine or Instagram post. My status re: this movie: Conflicted]