In yet another film about the effects of unrealistic expectations acquired through bitterly scrolling through social media pages and allowing the green-eyed monster to propagate from within, Brad’s Status hits the mid-life crisis nail right on its head. Ben Stiller provides a thoughtful yet uncomfortably accurate performance of the inner thoughts and fears of a middle-aged man incessantly reliving the regrets and shortcomings of his life as he takes his 17-year-old son to Massachusetts to tour prestigious universities.
The contrast of a son in the prime of his life versus a greying father filled with jealousy and conflicting thoughts of love, greed, and a ravenous appetite for more of just about everything is one that reflects a common theme in modern-day reality. Social media envy is no longer a Millennial curse, and Brad’s Status shows us how established adults with families and careers are just as, if not even more, prone to slipping into the deep endless cycle of self-doubt and anxiety.
Director-writer Mike White has a flair for creating disturbed protagonists that leave us conflicted: we’re unsure of whether we respect them for facing their truths or hate them for their flaws. Brad Sloan (Stiller) is as normal as they come: he began his own non-profit, lives in Sacramento suburbia with his wife and son, and has a seemingly problem-free life outside of his current emotional crisis. Actually, Brad’s life isn’t normal for the majority of people in the world, he is in fact quintessentially well-off. He has a California home, can afford to put his son through college (for the most part), and at one point he is about to charge $1,600 to his AmEx card to upgrade his plane tickets to business class for an ego boost with seemingly no issue at all.
These aspects make Brad somewhat insufferable given his utter lack of appreciation for a pretty privileged life by most standards. He practically whines his way through the entire movie and it becomes increasingly more difficult to make excuses for his behaviour, although evoking emotions of distaste for the character only prove Stiller’s depiction is quite spot-on.
One thing is for sure: everyone in the cinema will see something in Brad’s turbulent thought process that resonates with their own lives, whether they experience the occasional bout of Instagram envy, or have made decisions in their lives that they now regret.
With an ending that provides very little satisfaction as Brad does not quite grasp the full appreciation he should have for his life, the film lifts a mirror upon which the audience can see features in themselves reflected. Perhaps it is White’s intention to let the spectator create the ending in themselves as they move forward with how they view their own lives. Brad, however, comes to the conclusion that, at the very least, he and his son are alive and well, and that’s just about good enough.
Brad’s Status is released nationwide on 5th January 2018.
Watch the trailer for Brad’s Status here: