This film is best described by Marlon Brando’s classic lament in On the Waterfront (1954), “I could have been somebody.”
Simply stated, Brad’s Status had an interesting story to tell but unfortunately lost its momentum. Part of the reason was because Ben Stiller was miscast in the lead role.
Let me quickly acknowledge a bias by stating that I am not a Ben Stiller fan. Like most actors he has had his moments in front of the camera, but he has given us a string of lousy movies ranging from The Secret Life of Water Mitty (2013), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), Zoolander 2 (2016) and Why Him (2016) that say all you really need to know about his talents as an actor.
Here, he plays Brad, a married man living with his wife Melanie and son Troy in Sacramento. Though both he and his wife, wonderfully played in a small role by Jenna Fischer, have good jobs, he is haunted by the feeling that he has failed in life. Reflecting on four college friends who are living the life of high rollers across the country, the movie focuses on his attempt to touch base with his colleagues. In the process, he accompanies his son (Austin Abrams) on a trip to Boston in the hope that he will be admitted to Harvard.
Unfortunately, Brad becomes a first-class whiner as he imagines himself living in the assumed luxury of his old buddies. He feels isolated in Sacramento running his own non-profit while he watches Craig Fisher (Michael Sheen) appear on TV as an advisor at the White House and Jason Hatfield (Luke Wilson) travel on his private jet. What’s worse, another old college buddy has retired early in Hawaii where he lives in a home with his two girlfriends. Brad’s daydreaming becomes quite tiresome on both his son and the audience even though it eventually leads to a discovery that his friends don’t measure up to what they appear to be.
As noted, while the film has enormous drawbacks, the most glaring was the sad fact that Ms. Fischer was left on the sidelines as Brad moped his way around Boston. She played a bright and caring woman who you kind of hope would tell her meandering husband to either shape up or ship out.
I really wanted this film to work because most of us are forced at some point in life to confront our status in this world. Have our weaknesses overshadowed our strengths? Are we defined by our successes or our mistakes?
Unfortunately, Mr. Stiller’s character loses any sense of reality as he continually measures success in life by how much money you make.