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.

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