Netflix’s ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ (New and Selected),’ directed by Noah Baumbach, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night and received a four-minute standing ovation.
Started by Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Emma Thompson, the film has received critical acclaim and is up for the competition for the Palme d’Or.
The comedy-drama follows a clan of intellectuals. Hoffman plays the role of Harold, a frustrated sculptor that has never received the success he feels he deserves. Thompson plays his wife Maureen, who is secretly struggling with alcoholism, while Sandler and Stiller portray his two sons – who are half-brothers and rivals: Danny (Sandler), a pianist, turned stay-at-home dad, and Matthew, an accountant that often makes his father proud but is dealing with depression. After Hoffman’s character is hospitalised, the family reunites.
Through the film, Baumbach explores the generational gap and relationships between adult man and their fathers, that only seems to get harder through the years. At the same time, the film offers an inner view of The Meyerowitz, a dysfunctional family that has seen its members grow old and grow apart, from a very intelligent and comic point of view.
One of the most talked subjects of the film is the brilliant work Sandler did with his character, saying this is probably the best performance he has done in over 15 years – ever since ‘Punch Drunk Love,’ his last serious role, premiered at Cannes in 2002. In his latest movie, he’s now again showing his potential as an actor, outside of his man-child perpetual character. Stiller and Hoffman’s performance are also being called haunting and memorable.
Baumbach says the film was always intended for the big screen
The director said during the Cannes press conference that he made ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ “independently on Super 16 with independent money the way I make all my movies. The expectation is always that your film will be seen on the big screen. I believe in that; it is a unique, singular experience that is not going away.”
“Netflix acquired the movie in post and they’ve been hugely supportive and I feel very appreciative to them,” he added.
The statement came after being asked about the streaming service controversy at the festival. This year, Cannes included a two-movie lineup of Netflix productions. ‘Okja’ was the screened on Friday, and as the first tester of the Cannes-Netflix experiment, it received loud boos during the opening credits – twice, since it encountered technical issues and had to be restarted.
Things didn’t go as bad for Baumbach’s film. There were some boos as the Netflix logo was shown, but the cheers were louder. “I believe in [Netflix] and I think it’s unique and singular – an experience that’s not going to go away, in my opinion.”
But many detractors of the streaming service have spoken, including Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who’s this year’s jury president.
In his first Cannes press conference, the director read a prepared statement saying he didn’t think the Palme d’Or should be given “to a film that is then not seen on the big screen.” For many, this meant the imminent exclusion of the two Netflix titles – ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ and ‘Okja,’ screened on Friday – of the competition, though Baumbach’s may have shut some mouths.
After the cast heard Almodóvar’s quotes, Hoffman traced the shape of a TV with his hands as he added: “I have a very big screen,” and Baumbach replied, “We’ll be playing in Dustin’s living room.”
To avoid any further controversy, Cannes has established that from next year, all movies playing at the festival must have a French theatrical release if they want to be considered.
In spite of the controversy, the cast had a good time at the press conference
Hoffman wouldn’t stop joking during the conference. When a reporter said the film was “interesting,” he replied, “That’s not a good word. You didn’t like it, did you?”
Later, after Stiller said that he enjoyed seeing Hoffman’s films when growing old, the actor said in a grumpy tone: “I resent people saying they grew up with my work. Everyone who’s older than me, please stand up.” No one did, but everyone had a good laugh.
Thompson spoke about her character and the dysfunctional family drama: “Because I’m not from America, or that kind of family, it was a foreign country to me,” she said. “I read it, and thought, ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be fascinating,’” the British actress added.