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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), the latest dramedy from writer/director Noah Baumbach, landed stateside on Sunday night, making its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival — with Baumbach and stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel and Dustin Hoffman in tow — some four months after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Meyerowitz, which is about the children (played by Sandler, Stiller and Marvel) of a pretentious self-centered snob of an aging artist (Hoffman) trying to come to terms with how he has shaped and continued to shape them, was met with applause at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
The film, which will be released by Netflix in select theaters and via streaming on Oct. 13, has several things going for it as we progress deeper into awards season: the support of the critical community (it’s currently at 88 percent on RottenTomatoes.com); a varied group of big-name talent who may help lure people to check it out; an original screenplay that packs some truly laugh-out-loud moments; and maybe most important of all, the involvement of Netflix, which will help it to reach far more people than most other art house films — including, perhaps, a sizable chunk of the increasing number of Academy members living in far-flung places.
But, even so, Meyerowitz could prove a tough sell to awards voters. Its full title is long and not necessarily enticing. Its logline is weird and none of its principal characters are all that likable. And it feels very long, at 110 minutes, with many false endings.
The one person associated with Meyerowitz who could, conceivably, overcome these hurdles and seriously contend for a nomination, in the best supporting actor category, is the Meyerowitz patriarch himself, two-time Oscar winner Hoffman. In this film, the veteran actor very effectively and funnily portrays an obnoxious narcissist in the vein of other Baumbach protagonists — particularly Jeff Daniels in 2005’s The Squid and the Whale and Stiller in 2010’s Greenberg. Those performances won acclaim but not Oscar nominations, and this one is likely to follow a similar trajectory — but one cannot write off its prospects entirely, because in addition to a fine performance, Hoffman also has quite a story to share. He recently turned 80; it’s been exactly 50 years since he became a star through The Graduate; it’s been precisely 20 years since he last was nominated for an Oscar, for Wag the Dog; and he is reportedly thrilled with how this film turned out and excited to support it.
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