At first glimpse of its movie trailer and before knowing anything about the film whatsoever, I wrongly assumed that Brad's Status was the newest addition to indie auteur Noah Baumbach's extensive catalog. With Ben Stiller in tow and a personal examination of the human psyche at its core, Mike White's film seemed to look and feel exactly like a Baumbach picture. Unfortunately, Brad's Status fails to play out anything like the heralded American filmmaker's work. Instead, writer and director Mike White reminds us all just how frustrating and immature we can be as individuals.
Ben Stiller stars as Brad Sloan, a middle-aged owner of a mildly successful non-profit organization who can't help but feel resentful of his inner circle of college friends who all grew up to become insanely successful. And as Brad ventures onto a college tour with his smart and put-together teenage son Troy (Austin Abrams) who has goals of getting into Harvard, Brad continues to be plagued by regret and self loathing that makes him question all of his life's decisions.
Selling an audience on a character as irritating and emotionally inept as Brad is quite difficult. And even worse, the depth of his character is built almost exclusively through the cheap narrative tool of voice over. Brad's Status attempts to paint a meaningful tale of self discovery, but as Brad's character finally begins to peel away at his layers of cynicism, he's already alienated the viewer with an annoying obsession over stature and prominence. Mike White tries his hardest to provide a silver lining and he actually does conjure up a worthwhile, albeit obvious, message to the story. Yet, it's quite the challenge to still be invested in Brad's irrational psyche by the time the film finally arrives at its well-intended conclusion.