The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The word ‘Family’ came into English in the 15th century. As the years passed, many families found themselves in the midst of discord and distrust. And so the term dysfunctional family entered our lexicon many years later.

Amongst the many symptoms that have been used the one that comes most readily to mind is the word ‘conflict’. And many dysfunctional families deal with conflict by:

using criticism, contempt and defensiveness, along with putting up walls and looking for scapegoats.

Now in the world of tv, films, and theatrical dramas – conflict is a major component. As such, dysfunctional families are the meat and potatoes of a lot of what we watch on our various media platforms.

From The Simpsons to the The Sopranos to The Royal Tenenbaums, and from Oscar Winning films like Ordinary People (1980) to American Beauty (1999) – we can’t seem to get enough of these dramas or dramadies.

Lets add the Meyerowitz family to the mix. The film is called The Meyerowitz Stories. It opened in a limited number of theaters in mid October while simultaneously streaming on Netflix. At the head of the family is the patriarch Harold Meyerowitz with Dustin Hoffman taking the role. His claim to fame was more for being a tenured Bard College professor than for his varied art works.  Though if you ask him – he’ll be happy to tell you of the excellence of that art in what can be described quite simply as a very ‘Trumpian’ manner.

He was far less successful in his personal relationships. He fathered 3 children – now all adults – Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Elizabeth Marvel have the roles.  His kids will tell you that each of them has a different mother – meaning that Dad, good old Dad, was divorced 4 times. At which point, Harold will correct who ever said it with – No, I was divorced just 3 times – the other marriage ended with an annulment.

Such is life with Harold Meyerowitz. Currently, Harold dwells with Maureen (played delightfully by Emma Thompson), who seems to be drunk or working towards that state of being most of the time.

Adam Sandler (as Danny) is down on his luck – divorced, jobless, and nearly broke. Ben Stiller, portraying the ‘successful’ brother Matthew, is deeply resented by Danny as apparently Matthew was the apple of Harold’s eye.  I said ‘was’ but ‘still is’ is likely still in play – if you ask me.

Elizabeth Marvel is Harold’s third child, or maybe she was the first. She’s Jean Meyerowitz and she appears to be in a permanent state of depression.  Her role is underwritten and she looks as if her costumer and her make up people turned her on to the set as a female sad-sack. I say that because she just hasn’t enough lines for us to know.

Well the set up of the Meyerowitz Stories is that each of the adult kids will all tell their own version of their stories, as in they each take a turn in narrating. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the film has its moments of levity. Truly there’s not a lot of laugh-out-loud moments but at least there’s some.

Hoffman gives a stand out performance and that’s no surprise. All the best lines were written for him.  Stiller is at least competent but he hasn’t much to work with.

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A Walk in the Woods

I’ve always been something of a junior hiker. As a kid growing up on Long Island and living in close proximity to wooded areas, it was quite natural to walk to school by walking over the hill through the woods instead of walking on the sidewalk on a street that ran parallel to those woods. It should also be noted that this walk was, from door to door, home to school, was no more than 15 minutes by foot. Or three and half minutes by car.

Then, while living in Manhattan for many years, where I was surrounded by tall buildings rather than tall trees, I got familiar with High Point State Park, and Hacklebarney State Park in nearby northwest New Jersey, also Kent Falls State Park and Housatonic State Forest in the northwest section of CT.

But these outings were all of the day trip variety. All we carried in the way of equipment and supplies were cheap lighters and rolling papers.

Later, my outdoorsiness expanded to Interlaken, Switzerland, Les Baux in France, and the hills and woods overlooking Varenna, Italy on Lake Como. Most recently, in 2011 I hiked with a guide up Moon Hill (below)

in Yangshuo,

Yangshuo Mountain Resort

Yangshuo Mountain Resort

near Guilin in Guangxi Province in China. That was 2011. In 2013 I hiked on the Dragon Back Trail in Eastern Hong Kong, and my last bit of hiking was in Muir Woods, in Marin County last fall.

So at this point I must state that while I have always enjoyed a good walk in the woods, and have even camped out once or twice, a retailer dealing with Camping and outdoor equipment and paraphernalia, like REI would go out of business if the majority of their customers were like me.

Yet, because walking in the great outdoors has always been something I liked to do, and was a way of connecting with my younger days, I saw Tracks with Mia Wasikowski, and yes I saw Wild with Reese Witherspoon. As those films relate to hiking and walking around, I saw them. Yes, these days, in lieu of hiking, or even walking the woods, you can use the word arm-chair hiker to describe me. And you may safely leave the words trek, trekking, or trekkers out of this discussion, at least as it pertains to me and hiking.

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The Love Punch

So film director Joel Hopkins sits down and over a lengthy period, writes a new screenplay. Some producers like the script and buy it and hire Hopkins to direct it as well. Now Hopkins hasn’t done a lot of films. In fact, his last effort (in 2008) starred Emma Thompson who was paired with Dustin Hoffman. They called it Last Chance Harvey.

So Hopkins offered this film to Thompson and she signed on. She would be paired with Pierce Brosnan. The title, The Love Punch doesn’t give you a clear indication of what the film is about.

Thompson’s Kate and Brosnan’s Richard were married long enough to have produced two kids both now in college. But Richard, a corporate honcho didn’t quite buy into monogamy, so they’ve been divorced for a while. Apparently, the divorce was amicable and so, they remained friends.

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Last Chance Harvey

Recently I watched a film that opened on Christmas Day. Not this past Christmas of less than a month ago. No, this was from Christmas Day 2008. The film was a love story and starred Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. The movie had two taglines.

The first was: It’s about first loves, last chances and everything in between.

And the second was: When it comes to love, is it ever too late to take a chance?

So you should not be surprised that the title was: Last Chance Harvey.

My brother seemed to prefer labeling this film a rom-com, while I thought it was more aptly labeled a romance with dramatic elements. But this is not a matter of right or wrong as certainly there was humor in the bantering between Thompson’s Kate Walker and Hoffman’s Harvey Shine.

Early on, Director Joel Hopkins cross-cuts between Harvey, a writer of music jingles for TV commercials, and Kate, employed as a section chief by an airline’s customer service department that solicits opinions of the airline’s services from arriving passengers. Continue reading