Hollywood@Home: Brad’s Status

Ben Stiller is perfectly cast in the father-son comedy-drama, “Brad’s Status.”

I like Ben Stiller. He really seems to have a grip on his acting choices these days, and “Brad’s Status” is a prime example. It’s a small film he was perfectly suited for. Not a lot of box office, but a real delight for anyone lucky enough to stumble across it.

Stiller plays Brad Sloan, a middle-aged man trying to help his talented son get into the right university, while simultaneously examining his own life choices that planted him firmly in the middle class. Brad measures his life by the success of his college buddies, four equally talented men who apparently have achieved greater financial success and celebrity. Brad starts to think that perhaps working for a non-profit organization was the wrong career path for him. And, the accomplishments of his talented son, Troy Sloan (Austin Abrams), are a somewhat agonizing reminder of his glory days in college and the choices he made as a young man.

Yes, “Brad’s Status” is all about middle-aged angst. Here is my successful son, on the cusp of being accepted at Harvard. But, how does that compare to my life? “Brad’s Status” answers the question in an amusing, intelligent way. Stiller nails the role with his comic timing and dramatic flair. He was perfect for this part.

Writer-director Mike White is the guy who also deserves credit. It’s his story, well-told and well-cast. The film was brilliantly stocked with veteran actors (Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Jenna Fischer) and a lesser-known performer, Austin Abrams, as Brad’s son, Troy. Abrams (2 seasons on “The Walking Dead”)  is definitely on my radar now. He gives a warm, balanced performance as the high school senior dealing with his own ambitions and image, while trying to calm his dad’s fears that he’s not doing enough to help. It’s a nice counterbalance to Stiller’s high-strung inferiority complex.

Anyone who has ever had any doubts about their career choices can find something or someone to empathize with in “Brad’s Status.” It’s an effectively told narrative, well-paced and worthwhile. Grade: B+

Austin Abrams (“The Walking Dead”) does some exceptional work in the father-son dramedy, “Brad’s Status.”