Mike White's father-and-son college-trip comedy-drama Brad's Status is legitimately more frightening than anything in It. Quite aside from the fact that real life is always scarier than monsters from the beyond, the writer-director's deep understanding of envy, entitlement and embarrassment has never been more nightmarishly effective. Brad's Status is gentle, human and unresolved. I loved it, but I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it again.
"I felt like the world was rubbing my nose in something," observes Brad (Ben Stiller), a reasonably well-off owner of his own nonprofit company, early in the film. He's married to a beautiful and happy wife (Jenna Fischer), with a brilliant teen son (Austin Abrams) preparing to apply to colleges, and yet he's mired in self-loathing and doubt, thanks to the fact that his best friends from college have all seemingly lapped him in life: Craig (Michael Sheen) is a former White House staffer who's now an acclaimed author and TV talking head; Billy (Jemaine Clement) is a former tech bro who retired young and now lives in Hawaii, surfing and leading a chill, polyamorous existence with two perpetually bikini-clad blondes; Jason (Luke Wilson) is an investment banker who flies around in his own jet and plays oligarch. As Brad looks around at his own existence, everything feels like a mistake or an obstacle.
It all feels like it's leading to a climactic clusterfuck -- a final, hilarious interrogation and humiliation of Brad. But White pulls back at just the right moments. Refusing to turn Brad into an object of ridicule in turn renders the film even scarier, and more tense. It's funny, and it's terrifying, because it's all so sickeningly honest.