BRAD’S STATUS – Opened Nov 9 – Directed / Screenplay – Mike White (Beatriz at Dinner, Enlightened, School of Rock). Featuring Ben Stiller, Austen Abrams, Jenna Fisher, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clements.

Brad Sloane (Stiller) is a husband and father, reflecting upon the course of his life while on a journey from Sacramento to Boston with his son, Troy (Abrams), to work out where he will go to university. Comparing his own youthful exuberance and idealism with the realities of adult life, Brad can’t help contrasting his trajectory with those of his old classmates – and finds himself feeling bitter and envious of the success of the friends he long ago labelled as establishment sell-outs.

I confess that I would have given this movie a miss, but for the fact it seemed to be thematically apropos our Curtin Radio demographic – and uncomfortably close to my own. Ok, it’s because of Ben Stiller. It’s not that he’s a bad actor. He’s not bad at all. It’s just that I’m tired of his stereotype as Mr. Nice-guy-awkward and tend to pigeonhole his films accordingly – and pretty accurately for the most part, I reckon.

But I was also curious, because of the marvellous job Mike White did with Beatriz, and the humorous and gladdening excellence of his earlier School of Rock – which made me curious enough to put aside my preconceptions and try to view it with an open mind.

And BRAD’S STATUS seemed to start pretty much as expected. But it soon blossomed into something so much better than that. There were an assortment of genuine squirm moments, but these were contextual and balanced by glimmers of a genuine awakening of our protagonist to greater self-knowledge and transcendence. My rating would indeed have been higher, if it weren’t for a couple of small but irritating “Hollywoodisms” that I can’t go into for fear of being one of those spoilers. But nonetheless, this film rewards viewers with a pretty well-crafted uplift, that shows that “coming-of-age” is a continuous phenomenon, that continues throughout our lives – if we are awake to it.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 – Reviewed by Michael Bazeley