A father (Ben Stiller) who feels like a failure takes his son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of colleges in “Brad’s Status,” a sad sack, mopey, first person narrative film that wallows in self pity and doubt. If you think this doesn’t sound like a fun night at the movies, you’d be correct. This whiny, unpleasant film has writer / director Mike White written all over it, and this project serves as a mirror of his persona.
You can’t feel much else other than contempt for Stiller’s unpleasant, wholly unlikable character, Brad. He ignores his optimistic, cheerfully devoted wife (Jenna Fischer), and feels grossly inadequate with his nice house and nice car and his comfortable middle class lifestyle.
Instead of enjoying and living life, Brad constantly compares himself to his more successful college friends, including a retired tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement), a powerful political pundit (Michael Sheen), a Hollywood big shot (White), and a hedge fund manager (Luke Wilson). As Brad imagines their glamorous lives, he fails to appreciate his own. This comes off as some privileged white guy whining about not having supermodel girlfriends and a mountain of money. He still doesn’t have enough and longs for more: more money, more women, more success.
Brad’s insecurity manifests as a mid-life pity party that begins when his son starts looking at colleges and making plans for his bright future. Brad whines — a lot — about the loss of promise, ambition, and limitless expectations that are a by-product of having your entire life ahead of you. He gripes about how meaningless his life is and how awful the world has become. Cynicism and resentment control his life.
White’s direction is straightforward and boring, and the screenplay relies on the overuse of voiceover as a crutch. Brad’s internal monologue is lazily conveyed through narration that gets insufferably irritating about five minutes in.
There’s nothing bittersweet about this story, it’s not funny, and it’s one of those films that makes you feel bad when you exit the theater.