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Brad's Status (2017)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/2/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/4/2017
Most every movie, no matter how science fiction, fantastic, or David Lynch it is, contains some kernel of truth, otherwise the audience would find no way in which to link to it. With dramas and romantic-comedies, we often get nuggets which "hit close to home" as it were, as the movies hold a mirror up to society and reflect some things to which everyone can connect. And then, you have films which are so raw and true that they cut through any pretense and feel like documentaries. This is the effect of Brad's Status.
Brad (Ben Stiller) is 47-years old and runs his own non-profit company. He is married to Melanie (Jenna Fischer), who has a steady government job. Their teenaged son, Troy (Austin Abrams), is a gifted musician. Despite all of this, Brad is not happy with his life. Why? Because all of his friends from college are rich, successful, and famous. Brad lies in bed at night, unable to sleep, as he pictures their perfect lives and deems himself a failure. As Melanie must attend a conference, Brad and Troy travel cross-country from their home in Sacramento to Massachusetts, so that Troy can look at colleges. Upon their arrival, Troy informs Brad that he has a good chance of getting into Harvard. This should be taken as good news, but it only heightens Brad's anxiety. Will he ever be able to find happiness in his life?
When I picture Mike White, I picture the pale, goofy guy who had small roles in movies like School of Rock and Orange County. Those are films which he also wrote, and White has proven that he has a keen ear for comedy, and how absurd life can be. However, White also clearly has a more serious side, which has come through in things like Chuck & Buck and his early work on Dawson's Creek. White gets completely serious with Brad's Status and tackles a subject which is as old as time itself, but has taken on a new life in our modern society: Jealousy.
Given that we have sayings like "Keeping up with the Jones'" and that "coveting" is mentioned in the Bible, humans being envious of one another is not new. People have always been able to look at what others have and be jealous, and then things like the annual Christmas letter (the ultimate in veiled bragging) only make things worse. But, with social media, it's like we get a Christmas letter everyday, as people love to post about their exotic vacations or elaborate meals on Facebook and YouTube. Brad's Status (with the title clearly influenced by social media) places us squarely in that world, as Brad looks at his friends' updates on his phone and envisions their lives. And while Brad and Melanie have a good life, he cannot see this due to his jealousy.
And this becomes the key point of the film. In today's world, as we are constantly aware of what and how everyone else is doing, we can often fail to take a full assessment of our own lives. Unless you are part of the 1%, something in this movie is going to strike you as feeling very, very true. Brad has a house, a job, a loving wife, and a great kid, but he also has a ton of regret and self-doubt and this has become his life. And, as you can probably tell, Brad is not presented in a good light. He's not necessarily the villain of the piece, but, even as we relate to him, we cringe at most of the things which he says and thinks. This makes Brad's Status a very uncomfortable viewing experience. The film's ending doesn't help either. The movie ends somewhat abruptly, but it ends on a somewhat positive note. But, the ending also raises a question -- Is it truly a reflection of how the world is and how Brad should think and feel, or is it merely a new kind of denial for our competitive society?
Brad's Status is one of those movies which is tough to review. It is a well-made film and White has assembled a great cast of familiar faces. And, again, White has found a universal common subject and provided a very detailed and accurate story to go with it. But, as noted above, if you relate to Brad in any way, the movie is not a pleasant experience, as it exposes how petty jealousy can nearly ruin someone's life and render them blind to the good things around them. Brad's Status may be good for movie-going, but I think that it may work better as a tool for therapists.
Brad's Status should have you hugging everyone around you on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is adequate, as the picture is never soft, and the depth is fine. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we don't get a lot of dynamic effects here. Some crowd scenes provide noticeable stereo and surround effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. A concert scene does a nice job of having the music fill the speakers, as this helps to reinforce how Brad is caught up in the moment.
The Brad's Status Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "A Look at Ben Stiller as Brad" (3 minutes) offers comments from White and some of the cast who look at Stiller's performance and how he and White worked together. White talks about how social media and the cult of celebrity has effected modern society in "A Culture of Comparing Ourselves" (3 minutes). "Mike White on Directing His Own Script" (3 minutes) allows White to explain how he felt that he had to protect his words, while the others talk about his working style. "The Story of Brad's Status" (3 minutes) has the cast discussing their impression of the script and the film's themes.
Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long