Forty-seven- year-old Brad Sloan (Stiller) should be happy but there's a niggling malaise that’s keeping him awake at night. Although he and wife (Fischer) are financially comfortable Brad feels like a failure in comparison to his college buddies: retired billionaire Billy (Jemaine Clement), private jet-owning Jason (Luke Wilson), just-married director Nick (White) and TV business personality Craig (Sheen). As Brad and teenage son Troy (Abrams, Paper Towns) tour prospective colleges he is forced to get back into contact with his old friends to call in a few favours…Stepping behind the camera for the first time since 2007's quirky Year of the Dog, writer Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl) delivers his finest script to date: Brad's Status is a touching, tender, brave (it's largely internalised with Stiller's soft, weary voiceover dominating) and achingly true film. Despite the very obvious arc where Brad has to realise that his life isn't all that bad there's hardly a duff note here; in fact, that realisation comes very early on but, and this is where White's structure dares to upend things, the sudden awareness is merely cosmetic and Brad slips back into his jealous ways.
This move causes one to second guess where this story might end up – Brad's Status certainly develops under its own steam. One particular sequence that underlines this is when he sneaks out of the hotel room to meet Troy's attractive friend Ananya (Shazi Raja). It's not to sleep with her but to once again experience the hunger for life that has long disappeared, a desire/hope that he sees in her
("There is no more potential – this is it!" he sighs at one point), and, possibly, to validate his life decisions. White goes against the grain here, refusing to allow even a smidge of sexual tension into the sequence: not every mid-life crisis involves the bedding of a hot young thing.
It’s easy to see why Stiller was attracted to the role. He has before seen a kinship with characters that were lost, stuck in a mental fug, or lamenting a life that has peaked (Walter Mitty, Greenberg, While We’re Young) but his Brad here allows him to be the middle set of this Venn Diagram. Brad can be unlikeable but he's a good dad. Self-centred but generous. Gloomy but fun. All this is etched on Stiller's weary face and adds up to his best performance of his career - a quiet, unshowy, believable turn. He's backed up by Abrams who offers a different take on the embarrassed kid forced to hang with his old man and Michael Sheen, when he does eventually show up, is wonderfully detestable.