At once both an investigation in obsession and white male privilege, “Brad’s Status” stars Ben Stiller as a man who cannot help but compare himself to his more successful friends. “I have a creeping fear that not only have I not lived up to my expectations,” he says, “but have disappointed others as well.”
Brad Sloan is a husband, father and the owner of a non-profit organization that helps people in need. It’s a comfortable Sacramento life, comfortable but, according to Brad, unremarkable. Lately his head has been filled with thoughts of his college years when, “I was in love with the world and it was in love with me.” The difference between then and now? “The world hates me and the feeling is mutual.”
He must confront his feelings of inadequacy when he and his musical prodigy son Troy (Austin Abrams) tour colleges in Boston. Harvard seems sure to accept the teenager until a mix up in the dates delays Troy’s admissions interview. Determined to reschedule the meeting Brad has to swallow his pride and call his wealthy friends for help.
Contacting Billy Wearslter (Jemaine Clement), a rich guy who lives with two girlfriends in Hawaii, best-selling author and DC powerhouse Craig Fisher (Michael Sheen) and billionaire playboy Jason Hatfield (Luke Wilson) gets the job done but forces Brad further down the rabbit hole of inadequacy.
“Brad’s Status” is a character study of a man who complains about being ignored at dinner parties because he isn’t rich. Stiller is very good—he’s always at his best when in movies that don’t feature statues that come to life—at bringing Brad’s neurosis to vivid life, but what years ago would have been thought of as a mid-life crisis movie is now a story of male privilege, ripe with first world problems. In other words, it’s hard to feel particularly sorry for a character whose self-pity overrides the good things in his life. Stiller keeps him relatable, from his petty frustration at a useless silver airlines status card to his deep seeded jealousy of everyone from his successful friends to his talented son, but early on you sense the story is only headed in one direction.
I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll put a [SPOILER ALERT] here, but it turns out that Brad doesn’t have it so bad after all. There is poignancy to the story by times but the lesson—never judge a person by the private jet—is too slight, too obvious to make any lasting impression.
As a laundry list of Brad’s existential questions “Brad’s Status” doesn’t delve deep enough to provide any real answers, no matter how good the performances.