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Movie Review

When he was in college, Brad brimmed with longing and expectation. He had a great group of ambitious friends: Billy, Jason, Nick, and Craig. He believed he could solve world hunger, make something of himself, and take on life one adventure at a time.

And now? Now, Brad helms a humble nonprofit organization that tries to link needy organizations to wealthy benefactors. It's significant work, if not flashy work. But at the age of 47, Brad's youthful zeal has ebbed. Where he was once an idealistic, passionate and engaged young man, he now finds lasting contentment elusive.

Insecurity eats at him as he watches his old college buds become wildly successful. Craig worked in the White House, and now teaches occasionally at Harvard—when he's not publishing books or on TV, that is. Billy hit the tech-company jackpot, retired at 40 and now lives in Hawaii with two beautiful women. Jason owns his own private jet. And Nick (along with his partner Xavier) lives a wildly indulgent life in San Francisco.

They all still hobnob together. But Brad? He's forgotten. And he can't help but wonder what his life has become. His wife, Melanie, is happy and content with their normal middle-class life. But Brad's not happy or content with his own status. He'd rather be anywhere else than in the reality he awakens to every day.

Of course, their 17-year-old son, Troy, is a bright spot. He's a musical prodigy, likely to receive acceptance offers from several Ivy League schools. And when Brad takes Troy to Boston for campus visits at Harvard and at his own alma mater, Tufts, Brad begins to think perhaps he can find meaning in Troy's potential success.

But there's a problem: Troy forgot his interview date with Harvard's admission officers. So with Brad's last shot at significance seemingly on the line, he desperately calls some of his well-heeled friends to try to get another interview for Troy.

Brad succeeds at that task, thanks to Craig Fischer. But it also means having dinner with his famous former friend—the man Brad wishes he was.

Positive Elements

Brad vacillates between a positive and the negative perspective, but he admires his wife's ability to see the best in every situation. Melanie's happy with what they have, even if he's not. As he and Troy leave for Boston, she encourages, "Be happy, be present," both of which Brad tends to struggle with.

As the film progresses, Troy helps Brad to see more clearly the meaning his life already has. One poignant scene involves Brad watching his son. As he does so, he realizes that he could have pursued the kind of success his friends have achieved. But it would have come at the expense of his family. He recognizes (in a voiceover) that he has spent his life "planting a seed" and watching it grow.

Slowly, Brad begins to understand that being present and creating lasting memories—such as the impromptu tickle fight he has with Troy in their hotel room—is what really matters, not owning a private jet or being on TV. (That positive message is reinforced by one of Troy's friends, who's already studying at Harvard.) The good life he already has is worth the sacrifices he's made, especially when Troy tells him he loves him, and that he matters to him.

Though his motives may be a bit mixed, Brad goes to great lengths to obtain an admission interview for his son at Harvard, even if that means swallowing his pride. And in a phone call with his wife, Brad tells Melanie, "Isn't it crazy how we made Troy, and now he's this brilliant, amazing person?" Then he adds tenderly, "I wish you were here."

Near the conclusion, Brad attends a symphony performance with Troy. He lets himself "feel the life" that has been inside him all along. And he says that now he can finally "love the world" without having to "possess it," no matter how he feels it has treated him. Brad also affirms the profound goodness of life and relationship, saying near the end of the film, "My son: He's here. We still have years together. … We're still alive. I'm alive."

Spiritual Content

A young musician on a street corner strums a guitar and repeatedly sings, "Love yourself in nature and find peace." We also hear, "Love, be happy, loyal, and free/ … chickens and children know it all/ … God is not full of hate." Elsewhere, Brad refers to the luxurious life of his friends as "heaven manifested." Troy wears a T-shirt that has a Chinese yin-yang symbol on it.

Sexual Content

Brad learns that his friend Billy now lives with two women on the beach in Hawaii. Billy brags to him about frequent sex with both. (Brad internally reflects on the apparent lack of sex in his own marriage.) And we see Billy's companions in very skimpy bikinis. Brad later fantasizes about being with two young bikini-clad women himself, though the second of these dream sequences perhaps indicates that Brad realizes the emptiness of this fantasy.

Brad is infatuated, to some extent, with two young women he's introduced to at Harvard (one of whom is Troy's friend). Brad spends a significant amount of time talking to one of them. And while it's never suggested he's on the verge of cheating on his wife with her (nor is she interested in that), Brad definitely blurs healthy emotional boundaries while telling the young woman his story. Elsewhere, he expresses regret about " all the women [he'd] never love." Thus, Brad's discontent in life at times seems to include his marriage to Melanie, though in other moments he clearly recognizes what a treasure her love is.

One of Brad's friends, Nick, marries his same-sex partner, Xavier. We see them kiss (both on the cheek and on the lips during their wedding ceremony). Nick oversees a pool party at his house full of apparently gay young men dressed speedos. At dinner with Craig, Brad's friend says of Nick's flamboyant lifestyle, "The more successful he gets, the gayer he gets." Craig also jokes about all the "hairless dudes" Nick had at one party, then says it was like "a sci-fi gay porno."

Twice we see Brad's son shirtless and with a towel wrapped around his torso. A privileged child admonishes her parents, "Don't be so cisgender."

Violent Content

We hear about a man who had a stroke and died shortly thereafter.

Crude or Profane Language

About 25 f-words and 10 or so s-words. God's name is taken in vain at least five times, and Jesus' name is misused once. We hear one or two uses each of "h---," "d--mit," "a--hole," "b--ch" and "d--k."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Beer and wine are consumed in multiple scenes; Brad is seen drinking both, as are his friends. Champagne is served on various flights, and Brad orders whisky at a bar. Craig orders a Jack and Coke.

Craig says Billy is an alcoholic and a drug addict. He pantomimes movements suggesting cocaine and heroin use. In one fantasy dream sequence in which Brad imagines his friends' opulent lives, children pretend to snort coke. Brad also says that their lifestyle "must be like a drug." Craig asks Brad, "Is [Troy] medicated?"

Other Negative Elements

Brad lashes out verbally at Troy a couple of times in moments of dissatisfaction with his own life. He also continually daydreams, lapsing out of the moment and treating those around him like background noise.

Brad is so concerned about money that he asks his wife what will happen to her parents multi-million dollar estate when they die. He's frustrated by her answer, that they're either going to give it all to the grandkids or give it to charity. When talking with Troy about paying for college, he likewise quips, "Maybe one of your grandparents will die."

Craig tells Brad that their mutual friend Jason has gotten rich by taking advantage of others illegally, but that he may be on the verge of going to prison. Craig says blithely, "You don't get rich by being a Boy Scout." (On the other hand, this is one of several moments where Brad realizes that being wealthy may not be all that it's cracked up to be.)

Conclusion

Everyone struggles with comparison at times. Whether it's opening your Instagram account and scrolling through photos, or hopping on Facebook to check in on the latest success of a friend, those moments can often leave us asking, "Why isn't my life like theirs?"

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend, and she told me, "Your life seems so exciting." My life? I was thinking the same thing about hers! How funny it is that we can portray the life we most desire on social media, but we may still secretly be discontent with our actual lives.

Brad's Status gets at this reality. It represents the slight gnawing inside us all, telling us that our life would be better if only. … If only we had more money. More fame. More … everything. Or something. Sometimes we're not even sure what.

Brad's life shows us the danger of letting our insecurities dictate our emotional status. Living in a constant state of comparision is a damaging thing, one that robs us of joy in the moment. One that robs us of the ability even to be present in the moment—as Brad's wife, Melanie, clearly understands.

At times, Brad embraces this realization. Other times, he succumbs again to discontentment and unhealthy fantasies about how his life could be better (moments that are often punctuated by profanity, I should add). By film's end, it seems Brad's made some progress. But it's not dramatic progress.

How viewers react to his story may depend upon how much they identify with Brad's struggles, personality and experiences. Personally, I found Brad's Status to be kind of downer. (It should also be noted that this film is also the latest to seek to normalize the idea of gay marriage.) But I also can imagine how this quiet, melancholy drama could prompt viewers in the midst of similar "mid-life crisis" moments to ponder what really matters most in life.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Ben Stiller as Brad Sloan; Austin Abrams as Troy Sloan; Jenna Fischer as Melanie Sloan; Michael Sheen as Craig Fisher; Jemaine Clement as Billy Wearslter; Luke Wilson as Jason Hatfield; Mike White as Nick Pascale; Xavier Grobet as Xavier; Shazi Raja as Ananya; Luisa Lee as Maya

Director

Mike White ( )

Distributor

Annapurna Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 15, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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