|Scene from The Meyerowitz Stories|
If there's one general agreement, it's that Adam Sandler's glory days as a bankable actor are behind him, at least on the big screen. His work with Netflix has produced an odd range of comedies that have varying degrees of reviews. Still, nobody would mistake what he does for Oscar caliber material. Considering that Netflix is a company that wants to get in on the awards racket, it makes sense then that their latest film, director Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Story at least has an appetizing supporting cast, featuring Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson. The first trailer has dropped, and... it's time to talk about his bizarre relationship with prestige movie season yet again.
Like some people my age (28), I used to like Sandler comedies but have found them reaching a stale formula as I got older. Maybe it's just a reality of my shifting tastes. Still, he is one of those figures that I have given up on with exception to those interesting collaborations. Everyone is quick to mention Punch Drunk Love, largely because it's his most successful attempt at making "an Oscar movie." Nobody can deny the shocking drama that he brought to that weird film that is still a misnomer in Paul Thomas Anderson's amazing career. It's to get into the other films of this ilk that make you begin to question why he's been talked about for Oscars.
I'll admit to liking the 9/11 drama Reign Over Me, which seemed personal in a way that at least forced him to play a compelling character (even if the film had largely middling reviews). Depending on your views, Funny People at least showed his depths while still being funny and deserved some acclaim as his best non-Anderson work. However, the general reception to the film is that it bombed and, likewise, received bad reviews for being a self-indulgent Judd Apatow movie. It makes sense then that he's been going back to the well of silly comedies where he banks on what made him likable for 20 years. It's not going to get him an Oscar (but oftentimes, as is the case with Jack and Jill, a houseful of Razzies), but it leaves him out of the conversation.
However, I do think that it's time to be cautious about Sandler the Prestige Actor. While I don't blame it entirely on him, I do think that his most recent "serious" movies are downright, well, bad. Men Women & Children and The Cobbler were both done in collaboration with prestige filmmakers (Jason Reitman and Todd McCarthy respectively). The stories were interesting enough, but their twists and turns reflected rock bottom for both of them. They were bad movies. Considering that I really love Baumbach's recent string of movies (Frances Ha, While We're Young, Mistress America, and yes even De Palma), I cannot help but be worried that we're gearing up for another moment of disappointment.
Check out the trailer below:
In all honesty, it looks pretty good as a Baumbach movie. It could be the follow-up to The Squid and The Whale that we deserve. However, I still cannot shake the feeling that we've been down this road before. Everyone wants Sandler to pull out a surprise hit, but it's become desperate in the past few years. He's not terrible in his serious roles, but the movies he chose told stories that wouldn't work with anyone of merit involved. In some ways, seeing his co-stars from those movies doesn't help to shake the heebie jeebies off of The Meyerowitz Stories. I would like it to be a knock-out, but that's because I like Baumbach. However, I know where the conversation is going to go.
Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.
It did premiere at Cannes, so at least it has that going for it. However, I do feel like we're geared for another case of Oscar season disappointment. Even if the film is good, it probably won't be good enough, or get a surprise nomination over Sandler. Even if he's good in it, I do feel like his output does create a taboo over anything good that he does. It could end up that Sandler goes the Eddie Murphy route and botches his moment of glory with a Norbit-esque stinker. Speaking as he's mostly on Netflix these days, it won't seem nearly as bad, but it still could happen. Still, I am very skeptical of heaping Oscar prognostication on this yet. I would love to be surprised, but I haven't been surprised by Sandler (in a good way) since Funny People... and that was eight years ago.
Please forgive me if this sounds foolish. I'm usually not so vocal about Oscar contenders that I don't think stand a chance this early in the game. However, I would love to be proven wrong. I would love if suddenly Sandler reinvented himself as a prestige actor of credit, and not of the contemporary Will Smith variety. Time will tell, but I will be seeing this because I like Baumbach and want to see him succeed. Beyond that, Netflix is behind in the Oscars game, and you have to wonder if between this and Okja is they're ever going to break into that circle. They've gotten lower fields before, but I think it'll be a little longer before they become anything on par even with Amazon Studios.