THE SEVEN YEAR SWITCH
After a long break, comic actor Adam Sandler gets serious again in The Meyerowitz Stories
every seven years. Amid relentless runs of the usual goofy fare, Adam Sandler gets plucked away to work his cojones on something more serious. First came Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-drunk Love (2002), then Judd Apatow’s Funny People (2009), and now, Noah Baumbach’s
The Meyerowitz Stories, and it’s possibly the actor’s most affecting performance yet.
While the action swirls around bitter old patriarch Harold (Dustin Hoffman), it is essentially the story of his two put-upon sons — the unemployed Danny (Adam Sandler) and his hotshot half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller). It got a standing ovation at Cannes and will be
Empire’s Laugh Gala screening at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
Sandler is terrific throughout, gracefully holding his tongue at some points, gloriously losing his rag at others. “I’ve always liked him,” explains Baumbach. “I loved him on Saturday
Night Live, I loved his stand-up.” The pair had met once, ten years earlier, to discuss collaborating. “I always felt one day I’d have something for him. He has such vulnerability and sweetness. This is my third movie with Ben, and when I had this idea for brothers, it felt like an interesting combination. They’re friends, and other than bit in Happy Gilmore, they’d never worked together in a bigger way. This was a way to do it.”
Sandler, though, had major worries. Baumbach had told him he needed his cast to stick to every word, every punctuation point, so he learnt his entire role before shooting, scared, he told Stiller, of messing up. Had he expressed his worries to Baumbach? “When you work closely together on a movie,” says Baumbach, “for everybody, fears come up — ‘I don’t wanna fuck this up’ kind of feelings. I’m sure he’s telling the truth when he said he was scared. But also, he was so open and excited, and there was a tremendous amount of confidence and bravery in what he did. Or it wouldn’t be as great as it was.”
Sandler and Stiller make a formidable double act: Baumbach gives both the opportunity to mine so-far untapped emotional depths, while the physical comedy is just as strong. The scene where they attempt to destroy someone’s car, ineptly and incapably, is Laurel-and-hardy levels of stupid. “They’re great comedians and I wanted to see them run about and smash something up,” says Baumbach. “It would have been a missed opportunity to have them together and not take advantage of that.” It’s amazing that nobody paired them sooner. More, please.
Out of the frying pan… Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) dishes up for son Danny (Adam Sandler); Brothers Danny and Matthew (Ben Stiller); Director-writer Noah Baumbach caps off another day with Hoffman.