Toronto Film Festival: Brad’s Status

 

Mike White is one of the most prolific cinematic voices of our time. He attacks the issues of America very candidly, with fervor and a touch of comedy that leaves us wondering what just happened.  His latest film, Brad’s Status is no exception.

White says he was interested in exploring the surge in what he calls “status anxiety.” “We are not just keeping up with the Joneses today, but literally keeping up with the Kardashians,” he explains. “There are people very publicly living these unprecedented billionaire lifestyles. Even if we have a lot, it’s easy to feel like it’s not enough. We all curate our lives for others through social media, which adds to this sense that other people have more. Throughout the course of history, people thought it was only a certain elite that lived those kinds of lives. Now there’s a belief that we should be able to have all of that ourselves. There’s an unsustainable feeling that everyone’s winning the lottery — except you.”

Brad’s Status is a very timely film and goes to show that even though someone’s life may be presented in the media…particularly through social media to be perfect, at the end of the day we are all just human beings with feelings and expectations that are often times a figment of our imagination.  The grass in not always greener.  Sometimes it needs a little fertilizer and other times a good trim to reveal its true glory..

This film also speaks very loudly about white male privilege, jealousy and being ungrateful for a life that is perfectly fine.   It’s a perfect platform for Ben Stiller (Brad Sloan) as a middle age Dad contemplating why his life is not fabulous.  After all, he’s a white male in America.  Why shouldn’t Brad be rich, have a private jet, a fabulous wife and fabulous kids?  Why shouldn’t his son have a chance to attend Harvard? It’s what he feels he deserves in life…right??!!  At least that’s the way Brad sees it.  Especially, when it comes to comparing himself to his college crew..

One is a successful hedge hunter (Luke Wilson), one a millionaire by age 40 (Jermaine Clement) and the other a successful author/tv personality/professor (Michael Sheen) with an equally successful wife.  Brad often finds himself daydreaming about these men and the fact that their lives all seem more interesting and fulfilling than his own.  Where did he go wrong?

Ben Stiller is absolutely stellar and compelling.  With most of his work being done through voice-over, his best scenes are shared with one of his young Co-Star Austin Abrams’ (Troy Sloan) and his  son’s beautiful idealistic high-school classmate – now Harvard student,   (played with fire by Shazi Raja).  It’s in those moments that we grab a glimpse into the essence of what makes Brad tick.

Jenna Fischer (Melanie) is the perfect compliment to Stiller’s neurotic, middle-aged Dad with her optimistic, bubbly, yet lovable sensibility.  It’s those qualities that make her acting feel very organic and not force-fed.

Producer David Bernad (NBC’s Superstore), Brad Pitt (Plan B Entertainment) and Mike White (Beatriz at Dinner) will definitely find themselves part of the awards season conversation and deservedly so.  Brad’s Status touches so many buttons, but will make you think long and hard the next time you contemplate coveting someone else’s life.  It may turn out that the life you think you want isn’t the life you really want  or need to live in order to be fulfilled.

Brad’s Status debuted over the weekend at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and will be released by Amazon Studios into theaters on September 15th.

 

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