The title Brad’s Status is a clever play on words that references today’s social media-driven society and the notion of keeping up with the Jones’s. The story follows, Brad, a father who feels inferior about his life’s choices after reconnecting with some old friends on a college tour with his son. This is a self-reflective character study in which writer-director Mike White is able to explore the inner monologue of his lead played by Ben Stiller. Filled with self-doubt, speculation on where he went wrong and what he could have done better, this is a unique character portrait told from the inside out.
It’s not a typical role for Stiller, who can be quite cold and seemingly impervious. Instead he’s playing a more accessible, intimate, vulnerable and relatable character in Brad, a family-centric father with a rather lacklustre job. It can be seen as cheating when the lead’s thoughts form a stream of consciousness presented as an off-screen voice-over, yet Stiller does a great job as Brad, reflecting these thoughts in an earnest fashion, creating a real connection with his on-screen son, Troy, and tapping into Western society’s culture of continual upgrades, material wealth and the ladder of success. The off-screen thoughts are frequent, yet the treatment is fresh and the writing is smart and thought-provoking.
“So this is what Boston were singing about… “
He’s supported by young Austin Abrams, whose easy-going nature translates well in his performance as gifted musician, Troy, who gets embarrassed by his dad on more than one occasion. Together, their chemistry is believable and even touching at times. Stiller plays off a solid ensemble including: Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement, who form a collective of old college buddies living the high life. Each of them bring their own comedic edge to the party, making it entertaining to see Stiller fighting off his envy while trying to jump start his self-esteem. While Austin Abrams does a great job, he isn’t the only promising young actor in Brad’s Status. Shazi Raja also shines… reminiscent of a young Mila Kunis, she champions a curious college subplot.
Coming from a comedy background, White instills an offbeat sense of humour with an ironic twist. The ebb-and-flow of Brad’s college tour with his “buddy” son is realistic and forms the perfect setting for him to reminisce about his life, using flashbacks to fill in the back story. This dramedy will resonate with those who have been afflicted by Facebook envy in seeing their peers seemingly living the dream. It’s a smart, thought-provoking and entertaining film with a sharp cast that serves as an insightful commentary on society and the nature of success. It’s not life-changing, but has enough dramatic integrity and entertainment value to stay enjoyable.
The bottom line: Insightful