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Adam Sandler's 'Return to Form' in The Meyerowitz Stories Lauded at Cannes

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It’s been roughly 15 years since Adam Sandler generated perhaps the best reviews of his career for leading the cast of Punch-Drunk Love, a modern classic romantic comedy that bagged Paul Thomas Anderson the best director prize at Cannes. After exploring his “serious” side through characters in films like Spanglish, Reign Over Me, and The Cobbler post-Love, Sandler has seemingly found a comfortable home in the good graces of Netflix: He’s currently locked into a four-picture deal with the service after the success of a string of low-brow, straight-to-streaming releases (The Do-Over, The Ridiculous Six) that have drawn critical ire in recent years.

Sandler is turning over a new leaf with movie critics on the Croisette this year, however, as Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is netting some of the actor’s most favorable notices in years in what many are hailing as a return to form for the 50-year-old genre veteran.

“It’s been a long time coming but Adam Sandler is finally in a good film,” reads the headline for Robbie Collin’s Telegraph review. “Adam Sandler has been bad in so many awful films that when he’s terrific in a great one, it’s both a revelation and a windfall – like you’re digging around at the back of the garden shed for the first time in years and find a Picasso propped up against the wallpaper steamer.”

The film follows Sandler’s Danny, a member of the titular clan who navigates middle age woes alongside various members of his family (Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel) after a messy divorce, recalling Baumbach’s quirky (yet amiable) tone. Collin continues: “Sandler and Stiller haven’t appeared together in a film since Happy Gilmore 21 years ago, but as half-estranged half-brothers, their bridling, tentative chemistry is never less than hugely watchable. Sandler, in particular, is asked to go places he hasn’t been as an actor since Punch-Drunk Love — and he gets there so seemingly effortlessly, and with such comedic precision and control of sentiment (the way he plays Danny’s relationship with his daughter is delightful), you wonder what it would take for him to do it more often. Baumbach should really write him a Volume Two.”

Following the premiere of Bong Joon-ho’s Okja earlier this week, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) marks Netflix’s second-ever competition title to debut as part of Cannes’ main slate as tensions mount over the distributor’s fresh take on the traditional theatrical release model, which has, according to some accounts, resulted in the brand’s title card being booed ahead of both the Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) screenings. Regardless of where they stand on that issue, film journalists have largely been kind to Baumbach’s latest, even going as far as to tip Sandler for an Academy Award nod (though that seems unlikely, given the film’s day-and-date theatrical/streaming bow, as noted by Anne Thompson here).

“… Netflix, which is in the Adam Sandler business, scooped up this relatively high-brow Scott Rudin production just weeks before its Cannes film festival premiere. Still, it’s odd to think that the company responsible for Sandy Wexler and The Ridiculous Six could conceivably earn Sandler his first Oscar nomination — and his best role since Punch-Drunk Love played Cannes in 2002,” Peter Debruge writes for Variety. “Netflix audiences have presumably come to see Sandler and Stiller, and Baumbach has tipped the balance in their favor — even if the whole exercise has been about establishing a formidable patriarch and slowly chipping away at his self-styled legend.”

IndieWire‘s David Ehrlich similarly praises Sandler’s performance in his B+ reaction, noting that it’s actually Sandler whose talents benefit Baumbach’s film, and not the other way around.

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“A great Adam Sandler performance makes The Meyerowitz Stories one of Noah Baumbach’s best,” the piece’s headline proclaims. The review goes on: “Frustrated, lonely, and struggling to get over the feeling that he should just accept his brokenness, Danny is a vintage Baumbach man (like a less rigid Roger Greenberg), and Sandler’s mustached performances makes the character feel like someone you know, or someone you might be. Possibly both. Playing a guy who, like his father, ‘must have a real tolerance for discomfort,’ the Artist Formerly Known as Sandy Wexler is exceptional in a low-key turn as a person who can’t tell the difference between the pain he has to live with and the hurt he can actually help. Watching him work out the difference is the film’s greatest pleasure. Sandler makes you want to tell Danny what Danny eventually tells to his father: ‘Thank you for letting me be a part of your process.’”

Read on for more reactions to The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) — including heavy admiration for Hoffman’s role which, perhaps in a more prestigious, straight theatrical release, could have registered as the type of flashy supporting part that often bags Oscar nods for screen veterans — below.

Steve Pond (The Wrap)
“Wow, Adam Sandler might actually belong in Cannes… Hoffman’s delicious performance kind of sucks the air from every scene he’s in, which is exactly what his character does, but Sandler and Stiller are fine as siblings who are still bearing the scars of parental neglect (in Sandler’s case) and over-attention (in Stiller’s). In many ways, though, Elizabeth Marvel steals the show as the neglected daughter who has spent most of her life hiding in plain sight from the wreckage around her. For Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories sits in the darker side of his filmography; it’s still a comedy, to be sure, but one filled with pain and regret. It’s not as immediately memorable as many of his other films, lacking the bite of The Squid and the Whale or the inspired comedy of Mistress America — but it’s an amusing adult comedy that finds some real grace notes in the homestretch. And it made Adam Sandler seem perfectly suited to the Cannes Film Festival, which is an accomplishment all by itself.”

Robbie Collin (The Telegraph)
“The film doesn’t stint on emotional complexity, but it might be Baumbach’s most accessible to date: its amiable, bittersweet tone is much closer to The Squid and the Whale (2005) and While We’re Young (2014) than his more honed and audacious collaborations with Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha (2012) and Mistress America (2015).”

Peter Debruge (Variety)
“These are big questions, richly explored, and with any luck, the Netflix deal will mean that Baumbach’s drama will find an audience beyond mere art houses. It’s the kind of recommended viewing that might come up after watching Flirting With Disaster or The Royal Tenenbaums — in a world where either of those movies were available on the streaming service, that is. Although technically an acquisition (as opposed to a project they greenlit themselves), as the best Netflix Original film to date, perhaps this is a sign that the company is finally taking a more discerning interest in the content of their ‘content.’”

David Ehrlich (IndieWire)
“Frustrated, lonely, and struggling to get over the feeling that he should just accept his brokenness, Danny is a vintage Baumbach man (like a less rigid Roger Greenberg), and Sandler’s mustached performances makes the character feel like someone you know, or someone you might be. Possibly both. Playing a guy who, like his father, ‘must have a real tolerance for discomfort,’ the Artist Formerly Known as Sandy Wexler is exceptional in a low-key turn as a person who can’t tell the difference between the pain he has to live with and the hurt he can actually help. Watching him work out the difference is the film’s greatest pleasure. Sandler makes you want to tell Danny what Danny eventually tells to his father: ‘Thank you for letting me be a part of your process.’”

Simon Abrams (Slant)
“Sandler and his fellow leads make the film feel like Baumbach’s richest film since The Squid and the Whale. The Meyerowitzes all speak with the wit and observational detail that one might expect from the screenwriter of such whip-smart comedies as Mistress America and Kicking and Screaming. But The Meyerowitz Stories clarifies and revivifies those earlier films’ familiar themes of coping with privilege, and inherited familial shortcomings. This isn’t just more of the same from Baumbach, a talented humorist, but a nuanced and highly accomplished collaboration that ranks among his finest to date.”

Robbie Collin (The Telegraph)
“The film doesn’t stint on emotional complexity, but it might be Baumbach’s most accessible to date: its amiable, bittersweet tone is much closer to The Squid and the Whale (2005) and While We’re Young (2014) than his more honed and audacious collaborations with Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha (2012) and Mistress America (2015).”

Robbie Collin (The Telegraph)
“The film doesn’t stint on emotional complexity, but it might be Baumbach’s most accessible to date: its amiable, bittersweet tone is much closer to The Squid and the Whale (2005) and While We’re Young (2014) than his more honed and audacious collaborations with Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha (2012) and Mistress America (2015).”

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Neuroses flow thicker than blood through the veins of the clan under analysis in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Noah Baumbach’s rambling, often stingingly amusing look at messy accounts being settled within a disorderly family. Working firmly within the tradition of New York Jewish humor distinctively mined by the likes of Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, Herb Gardner, Elaine May and so many others, Baumbach’s film for Netflix is more conventionally conceived than some of his best work but benefits from sterling turns from a wonderful cast, most notably Dustin Hoffman and, no kidding, Adam Sandler.”

Sam Haysom (Mashable)
“The relationships between the trio at the center of the film, though — Hoffman’s character and his two sons — is handled perfectly. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has a beautiful way with dialogue, and Hoffman, Stiller, and Sandler all put in excellent performances. Their characters are raw, vulnerable, likeable/frustrating in equal measure, and — above all — believable. ‘In my movies I’m interested in the gap between who we want to be and who we are, and how far that gap is’ said Baumbach at a press conference after the screening. Ultimately, The Meyerowitz Stories is a devastatingly well-observed expression of that theme.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a funny and really enjoyable family comedy on classic lines with all the attendant pleasures of smart writing and ensemble casting. It’s a tale of regrets and sibling rivalry and daddy issues and disappointment with life – leavened with late-flowering tenderness. It has something of Hannah and Her Sisters, naturally, or maybe Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections – and Baumbach’s work is a cousin to that of Rebecca Miller, who incidentally appears here in an acting role… Dustin Hoffman’s performance is very persuasive as an implacable old man with babyish tendencies and needs, obsessed with the petty trappings of status. He reminded me of someone in the White House. Elizabeth Marvel is wonderfully dry and underplayed and actually upstages her two co-stars in a tricky, and apparently subordinate role. As for Sandler, he is very convincing as an unassuming guy with no very great idea or opinion of himself. It shows that he is a formidable screen actor. But it is Ben Stiller who really steals it, with his big speech about his dad. Halfway through, I myself choked up, wondering if Stiller was thinking about his own dad, the great and much-loved comic Jerry Stiller, famous for his appearance in Seinfeld.”

This article originally appeared on Ew.com