Review / ‘Brad’s Status’ (M) *** and a half

IN writer/director Mike White’s filmic portrait of a man who considers that what life has dished out to him is beneath his expectations, Ben Stiller does a convincing job playing Brad, in his 40s, with a loving wife (Jenna Fischer) and 17-year-old son Troy (Austin Abrams).

Brad remembers his university classmates who’ve gone on to riches and fame while he is merely CEO of a Sacramento not-for-profit body co-ordinating other not-for-profit groups. Those friends haven’t contacted him since graduation, nor he them. Today, he has flown to Boston for Troy’s entry interview at Harvard. But Troy screwed up. The appointment was for yesterday. So it’s time for Brad to break three decades of silence and plead with his old classmates to use their influence to get the interview rescheduled.

“Brad’s Status” spends about a third of its time revealing a domineering under-achiever being sorry for himself and afraid of his own life and Troy’s prospects. Frankly, this part of the film is boring and you might be forgiven for wondering why you’re there. But Mike White has just been winding up to deliver his message.

And that makes the rest of the film engaging. There will be no epiphany for Brad. All he will get is the opportunity to understand and deal with his situation as best he can. In a restaurant, he and Troy meet Ananya (Shazi Raja) whom Troy knew at high school. Ananya, at Harvard in the second year of a degree in music and government, very clued up about the world that her generation has inherited, tells him some basic truths.

Reading the film’s complex message turns out not to be difficult. And it’s rewarding enough without stooping to finishing with a cliché. But it takes a little patience and a willingness to endure the boring bits.

At Palace Electric.


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