Brad’s Status is one of those insightful comedies about neurotic people that will make you laugh and feel sick to your stomach with unfortunate identification. It captures a certain modern illness that affects anyone with internet access and a social media account. The way we can all look at the curated portraits of friends’ lives and imagine perfection that sucks away the success of our own. It’s an issue that’s affected plenty of the hopelessly neurotic long before the new technologies. It’s now just easier and more potent than ever to get lost in.
Ben Stiller stars as the titular Brad, a guy who runs his own non-profit, has a loving wife (Jenna Fischer), and is about to embark on a trip to visit popular east coast colleges with his immensely bright and talented son (Austin Abrams). Yet despite all that, he’s miserable. Why? Because he still lives in a private personal competition with his gang of university friends who all reach varying levels of fame (all hilariously and insightfully played by Michael Sheen, Jermaine Clement, and Luke Wilson). Not that he’s actually talked to them in years. He just peaks into their lives through one of his various internet compatible screens and projects all of his inadequacies onto their newsfeeds. It’s probably a mid-life crisis or maybe just a particular brand of self-destructive lifestyle.
What could have been a deeply indulgent bit of navel-gazing emerges as a genuinely hilarious and potently honest film in the hands of writer/director Mike White. He’s been around for a while, writing everything from Hollywood hits (School Of Rock) to indie oddities (Chuck And Buck) and cult TV series (Enlightened). Throughout it all, White has shown a remarkable ear for observation and an empathetic heart. Brad’s Status is a frequently hilarious and biting comedy, yet one that never belittles the indulgently narcissistic behaviours it mines for laughs. White knows that in our deepest darkest corners we all have the same pathetic problems. The trick is acknowledging them or even better to laugh at them. Brad’s Status is his finest and funniest work to date, a film that just might be one of the best of the year (only in subtle ways easy to oversell and miss for those who don’t like cringing and giggling through truth).