Amazon Studios have been on a bit of a winning streak lately, following Manchester By The Sea, The Big Sick, and others, and they're kicking off 2018 on a high note, with the Ben Stiller-starring Brad's Status.

Stiller stars in our titular role, as Brad Sloan. He's a family man with his own non-profit organisation, yet he feels underwhelmed by the pretty decent life he has made for himself. He's living comfortably and it's not like his life is falling apart, but it pails in comparison to his former college chums - all who live luxurious lives of wealth, fame and success. Heading to Boston with his 17-year-old son Troy (Austin Abrams), to take a look at potential colleges, the anxiety and unhappiness only continue to boil as Brad starts reflecting on his youth, and finds himself back in contact with some of those former friends.

Brad's Status is a quiet, meditative character study; it's not your paint-by-numbers dramatic comedy and often finds its humour drawn from the nuance and the subtlety of Brad and his interactions with other people - especially since we're clued into what he's really thinking. The humour often works and Mike White's script here has found a way to tap into such issues with enough sincerity and wit without ever feeling like its too preachy or heavy-handed; it's sharply written and the dialogue is rather riveting, a fascinating insight into Brad's inner workings - as he narrates his thoughts to us but never in a way that feels too expositionary or dull - and a provocative and accurate look at anxiety. Brad is a character that has a beautiful wife, a gifted kid, a pretty respectable job and a comfortable life... yet he's still fixated on the idea he has failed. And the film does address this when a character literally asks him what he has to be ungrateful for, given he has so much, but this is how genuine anxiety works and it's depicted with very commendable honesty here.

This is far from a perfect film, however. There isn't a whole lot going on in the story itself and it does feel like scenes sometimes feel like they're just being drawn out for the sake of filling a runtime quota; this can hinder the pacing, causing the film to lull every so often and become tedious at parts - especially in the middle act. The characters are also fairly grey and mundane; there isn't a lot of joy in any of them and, whilst the film does a good job of showing the effects of anxiety, White's screenplay perhaps sometimes think it's a lot deeper and provocative than it actually is. That's not to say that the film is devoid of that insightful edge, there are certainly very stirring and thought-provoking scenes and concepts throughout, but it's more intermittent than White seems to want.

There is also a case of "been there, done that"; the life-struggling type is nothing new for Stiller, and Brad is perhaps the least memorable of his neurotic sadsack characters coming to terms with the larger meaning of life - think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Greenberg and While We're Young but just not quite as striking and memorable and you've got Brad's Status. Stiller still impresses in the lead role, nonetheless, and he's matched by a terrific supporting cast that all bring a lot of charm to the table and there is plenty of humour throughout; this is still a very understated character piece, it's quiet and gently provocative and often a compelling and affectionate look at this character and his inner thoughts. But it's just a film that feels a little too uneven and familiar to really be quite the memorable triumph it could have been. But, even there, there is enough charm and flare to make this a competent and delightful enough film to dive into for a couple of hours. It's certainly far superior to White's last screenwriting duty... The Emoji Movie.



Brad's Status is a meditative, understated piece; it's an affectionate study of character and life - topped off with always-impressive work from Ben Stiller.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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