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Heartfelt 'Brad's Status' gets a little too lost in its own misery
Ben Stiller stars as Brad in Brad's Status." - photo by Josh Terry
BRAD'S STATUS 2 stars Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson; R (language); in general release

Brads Status tells the story of a middle-aged man who has something of a midlife crisis while on a college hunting trip with his teenage son. Ben Stiller plays Brad Sloan, the 47-year-old owner of a nonprofit who just lost his only employee because the job was depressing. Fortunately, Brads wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) has a steady government job, and theyre getting by just fine, raising their son Troy (Austin Abrams) in Sacramento, California.

But as Brad prepares to take Troy back East to visit a variety of colleges, memories of his own college experience begin to haunt him. All of his old college buddies have gone on to substantial financial success: Craig (Michael Sheen) is a political insider and a successful novelist, Billy (Jemaine Clement) is a retired tech company magnate, Jason (Luke Wilson) made a killing with hedge funds, and Nick (Mike White) is a Hollywood director so successful that his $9 million mansion shows up on the cover of Brads copy of Architectural Digest.

Envy and lust for the high life starts to build as Brad and Troy set off on their trip Melanie is stuck attending a conference back home, as another reminder of their middle-class realities and Brad cant afford to upgrade their tickets to business class. Things get worse when Troy mixes up his interview schedule and shows up to Harvard a day late.

In order to help his son, Brad is forced to reconnect with Craig, who also teaches a course at Harvard and may have an inside track on the music professor Troy wants to study with. Its an exercise in pride-swallowing for Brad, who never heard back from Craig after he asked him for help with his nonprofit. Brad is also angry to find out that Nick recently got married and invited all his old college buddies to the wedding but him.

Narrated perhaps over-narrated? by a glum Stiller, Brads Status threatens to get lost in its own misery but stays afloat as different breaks and epiphanies help Brad to get his priorities in order. Brad is periodically able to turn away from his personal materialistic disappointment and realize that Troy is truly a gift, even if his self-sabotaging ego quickly undercuts each glimmer of hope with a shadow of possible failure. A humbling conversation with Troys talented flautist classmate Ananya (Shazi Raja) and an awkward dinner with Craig who actually does come through for his old friend magnify a trip that should be about his son but becomes focused on his own problems.

Brad fails to realize until well into the film and maybe not even then that he is doing battle with himself more than anything else. Stiller does an excellent job of evoking sympathy for a character that is relatable and good even while he struggles with a selfish, materialistic perspective. Abrams works as a nice foil for his fictional father, garnering genuine sympathy while displaying enough teenage angst to remind you hes yet to become a man.

Unfortunately, Brads journey often feels too subtle and low-key to elevate the audience from the doldrums of his situation. Major real-life life changes dont often happen in the timeframe of a Hollywood run time, but for a film that clearly wants to show a man learning to embrace the good in life, it could use a little more light at the end of the tunnel. Brads Status has a lot going for it, but for many audiences, it may just prove too much of a drag to get through.

Brad's Status is rated R for language; running time: 101 minutes.
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