Brad’s got it all. Or does he? Mike White’s comedic drama does some middle age self-reflecting
Ben Stiller engages in some rather heavy middle-age navelgazing in “Brad’s Status,” writer-director Mike White’s thoughtful examination of one man and his First World Problems.
Stiller plays Brad, a 47-year-old guy who by all measures — other than his own — is doing well for himself. He has a son (Austin Abrams) who’s heading off to college, a loving wife (Jenna Fischer), a nice home and a good job. But he’s haunted by what could have been, and the flashy status of his college pals: Jason (Luke Wilson) has a private jet, Billy (Jemaine Clement) cashed out and lives on the beach with a rotating group of 20-something models, and Craig (Michael Sheen) is a successful author and frequent talking head on cable news.
What does Brad have? He lays awake at night, tormented, wondering how much money he’d inherit if his wife’s parents would die.
“There are moments you realize your entire life’s work is absurd and you have nothing to show for it,” he says in dry voiceover.
There are clearly much bigger problems in the world than Brad’s. But no problems bug you like your own, and White puts viewers in Brad’s head as he assesses his life and the choices he’s made. He envies the power of the connected, he romanticizes the allure of selling out, he gets jealous of his son’s youth. “Brad’s Status” goes to some prickly places internally, but White manages to keep things grounded in reality, even as he acknowledges the extreme self-involvement of the premise.
Similar to “While We’re Young,” in which he played a guy wrestling with the reality of getting older, Stiller is in prime form here, smart and self-pitying in a way that’s quintessentially his own. He’s so often associated with humiliating pratfalls that it’s overlooked what a sharp actor he is, but he has shown it in his recent work. He takes what could be an empty exercise in self-reflection and makes it resonate.
Rated R for language
Running time: 101 minutes