'Brad's Status': You Don't Have to Possess the World to Love It
Comparison may not have killed the cat, but it sure killed Brad. A Toronto International Film Festival favorite, Brad's Status explores a mid-life crisis at its finest during a father-son trip to visit prospective colleges. Wrought with thoughts of how he's failed in comparison to his richer, prettier, famous-er friends, Brad Sloan (the hilariously hopeless Ben Stiller) embarks on a mental journey to contentment to the chagrin of his college-bound, seemingly indifferent but typical teenage son, Troy (played by fresh talent Austin Abrams of The Walking Dead) . Brad represents the inner-self-loather in all of us. It's a dark comedy that flicks us all in the forehead, pointing fingers at how our generation has become swept away with the outer lives of our comrades, presented in perfect 6x6 Instagram photos and ten second generalizations of their supposedly flawless Snapchat lives.
Brad and Troy travel to Boston for a week of college tours, specifically to Harvard (Troy's counselor says it's a sure thing; he's a musical prodigy), and Tufts (Brad's alma mater, and the place he met all his perfect friends). When Troy misses his admissions meeting for Harvard, Brad swallows his pride and reaches out to all his more successful "friends" to keep Troy in the running for a Harvard acceptance. While Brad's motives may be more than just for his son's happiness (having a son attend Harvard would certainly elevate his status), it's endearing nonetheless, and the outcomes of reconnecting with his old college pals gives Brad a stark wake-up call: not everything is as it seems.
Ben Stiller drags us along through Brad's never-ending narrative thought process, whipping us back and forth between being grateful for his life (evidenced by a truly heartwarming father-son tickle fight) to disappointed that, in his eyes, he didn't accomplish more (his non-profit didn't make him a millionaire, or save the world, or get him on TV, or supply him with a mansion). Brad hates the world, and the world hates him. It's an exhausting one-sided conversation on envy, which makes his interactions with those around him who aren't obsessing over their status all the more entertaining. Shazi Raja's bright and determined Ananya endures the brunt of Brad's grievances during one attempt to recover his youth; he sneaks out of his hotel room to go drink with Troy's college friends. After hours of complaining about missed opportunities and "what-if's", changemaker Ananya tells Brad what we're all thinking: "I promise, you have enough."
Troy seems to think so, too; he's Brad's constant reminder that his love is all that matters. Austin Abrams' Troy is kind, nonchalant, and content; he hides his happy fervor behind a veil of indifference, but doesn't hide it well (and is all the better for that). Abrams steals the show as Troy, who unknowingly and without trying ends up quietening all of his father's insecurities.
Writer/Director Mike White of School of Rock and Nacho Libre (who also plays the super gay and super cool Nick Pascale, one of Brad's famous four) makes it very clear how pervasive white privilege can be, and as much as Brad's Status may get on your nerves for its slow pace or Brad's lack of gratitude for literally anything — including his beautiful and happy wife, Melanie (The Office's lovable Jenna Fischer), it's a reminder to take a step back and realize that the cards you've been dealt aren't bad— in fact, they're all you could ever need.
Directed by MIKE WHITE
Written by MIKE WHITE
Starring BEN STILLER, AUSTIN ABRAMS, MICHAEL SHEEN, LUKE WILSON
Distributed by AMAZON STUDIOS
"Brad's Status" is out in theaters everywhere.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here.