"The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side"
BRAD’S STATUS depicts the mid-life crisis of a self-absorbed man named Brad as he takes his teenage son on a college scouting trip to Boston and dwells on comparing himself to his wealthier friends from his own college days while considering his son’s future. Writer/Director Mike White places the movie’s focus squarely on Ben Stiller as Brad, with most of the movie consisting of his interior monologues complaining about his average life. However, Brad and the old friends he envies are so miserable and annoying that few will want to spend any time with them.
The movie’s threadbare story follows Stiller’s Brad over the course of a weekend trip from his Sacramento home to Boston with his teenage son Troy (Austin Abrams) as they visit Harvard and Brad’s alma mater Tufts University for campus tours and admission interviews. Brad is first seen tossing and turning in his sleep. He asks himself how his life turned out the way it has. Then, he asks his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) if they are likely to inherit her wealthy parents’ expensive home in the hopes that it would be their backup plan for a cushy retirement.
Brad heads his own non-profit business while Melanie has a secure government job. This gives them a solid upper-middle-class life, but he’s obsessed with the fact that several of his college friends have gone on to vast success in high-profile industries. Jason (Luke Wilson) is head of a hedge fund, while Billy (Jemaine Clement) has sold his tech company and retired to a life of debauchery on an island. Finally, Nick (played by the writer/director) is a hotshot filmmaker.
While those three friends are mostly seen in Brad’s jealous imaginings, Brad forces a reunion with his friend Craig (Michael Sheen), who’s become a prominent TV pundit and author and has the connections to help Troy get special attention at Harvard. The tension behind that meeting and Brad’s encounters with Troy’s young idealistic friends force Brad into some serious reckonings about the state of his own life.
BRAD’S STATUS revolves so much around Brad’s impressions and ideas of what his old friends’ lives are like that viewers are shown almost nothing of their actual realities. Brad barely connects with any of his old friends other than Craig. Regrettably, this gives viewers little empathy.
Stiller does a solid job as Brad, conveying the well of emotions that are bottled up inside of him, but his incessant whining is largely unappealing. Abrams as Brad’s son has the most genuine interactions with Brad, but he’s not called upon to show much range other than being a nice kid who’s increasingly worried by his dad’s obvious sadness.
The intense jealousy and bitterness Brad harbors toward his friends, who have succeeded in big-money fields while he opted to create a non-profit, reflect a strong anti-capitalist viewpoint. The movie also shows a pro-homosexual side in a few brief scenes of Brad’s old friend Nick hosting all-male pool parties and kissing his male “partner” after making his vows at their wedding. Another character comments on Nick’s heavy-partying lifestyle, while the fact that Billy is living with two women at once in a threesome relationship is both mentioned and implied as he runs along the beach with them a couple of times. Brad in one scene also fantasizes briefly about living like Billy rather than being married, but this fantasy is intended for comical effect rather than any salacious reason.
BRAD’S STATUS does have a few positive aspects. For example, Brad is shown to be a caring husband and father despite his personal malaise. Also, a friend of Troy’s tries to impress upon Brad the fact that there are people with far greater problems in poor parts of the world. Thus, the movie shows that Brad is misguided in his bitterness, even if he doesn’t realize it most of the time. Finally, Brad’s wife and son are also shown as loving and devoted toward Brad and each other, a too-rare depiction of a stable nuclear family by Hollywood.
Due to the movie having numerous obscenities scattered throughout and the brief depictions of the hedonistic lifestyles of Brad’s friends, BRAD’S STATUS is excessive.
(PaPa, AcapAcap, PCPC, HoHo, BB, LLL, V, S, NN, A, DD, MM) Strong mixed pagan worldview about a middle-class married man who envies the success of his old college friends with strong negative and strong positive elements that include protagonist’s bitterness and assumptions about how his friends live reflects a strong anti-capitalist viewpoint (plus two of the wealthier friends are seen as shallow and vain), strong politically correct pro-homosexual elements as one of his friends is a homosexual film director shown throwing pool parties with lots of shirtless young men and is described by another friend as living a partying lifestyle, and the director is seen kissing another man after they exchange vows in a homosexual wedding, and strong moral elements and moral premise shows a positive view of the bonds between the protagonist and his wife and son and protagonist; at least 38 obscenities (many “f” words) and three strong profanities using the name of Jesus; light comical violence; light sexual elements include homosexual references (including a same-sex marriage scene), one man is seen running on a beach with two women in revealing thong bikinis, and it is discussed that he is living sexually with both of them, and the protagonist later fantasizes about running on a beach with the same women rather than being married, though this is portrayed briefly and comically rather than salaciously; women in revealing thong bikinis and upper male nudity includes young gay men shirtless at a homosexual pool party; there is social drinking of alcohol in several scenes, and the protagonist wakes up with a hangover after having several drinks while talking all night with someone; no smoking but a young boy is briefly shown snorting a line of cocaine in a comical fantasy of the protagonist as he assumes that his rich friend spoils his children with a debauched lifestyle; and, strong miscellaneous immorality includes the protagonist is constantly jealous of others, resentful of their successes and of his own life as a middle-class, long-married man because he feels everyone else around him has a better life, protagonist also regards their successes with contempt, and protagonist is pushy and self-centered on several occasions, but the protagonist is also shown as mostly being a good husband and father to his son, and the movie makes it clear to viewers that the protagonist’s attitude is misguided.
BRAD’S STATUS depicts the midlife crisis of a self-absorbed married man named Brad. Brad and his teenage son travel from their Sacramento home to Boston, to visit Harvard and Brad’s alma mater, Tufts University, for campus tours and college interviews. Brad heads his own non-profit business while his wife has a secure government job. This gives them a solid middle-class life, but Brad is obsessed that several old college friends have gone on to vast success in high-profile industries. Eventually, the Boston trip gives Brad a chance for some serious reflection.
As Brad, Ben Stiller does a solid job conveying the emotions bottled up inside his character, but Brad’s incessant whining is unappealing. Also, the depictions of Brad’s old college friends are thin. Ultimately, BRAD’S STATUS is a depressing misfire that buries its few comic moments beneath a sour outlook. However, it presents a positive depiction of Brad as a good father and husband. Also, his wife and son are loving. BRAD’S STATUS warrants excessive for lots of strong foul language, homosexual references, anti-capitalist elements, and some brief drug and sexual humor.