Adam Sandler's core as a performer has always been his self-loathing. In his best comedies, he weaponizes it with humiliating ruthlessness. Now, he's given the performance of his life in Noah Baumbach's free-spirited and likable The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and it feels like something momentous and new for the actor. Whereas Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love used Sandler's existing persona brilliantly to create an extreme and beautifully self-aware version of an Adam Sandler Movie, Baumbach successfully brings Sandler into the real world without ever quite letting him lose his Adam Sandler-ness.
As the title suggests, Meyerowitz is a self-consciously ambling comedy exploring the relationship between two very different brothers and their oddball father. Sandler is the unemployed, divorced layabout, Ben Stiller the high-powered accountant to the stars and Dustin Hoffman is their failed-artist father. So, we've got Sandler plus Stiller plus Hoffman, and somehow the result is not a comic ham salad.
Sandler internalizes his self-loathing as Danny Meyerowitz, a neurotic who has amounted to very little in this world. As Danny tries to raise his precocious college-bound daughter (a wonderful Grace Van Patten) and bond with his judgmental, old-school–New York art-elite dad Harold, The Meyerowitz Stories offers a compelling look at people caught in the gravitational pull of a world where fame is ever-present but forever relative.
It doesn't quite have the drive and stylistic panache of other recent Baumbach efforts, but it makes up for that with sincerity, as well as moments of subtle satirical genius. The director perfectly captures the passive-aggressive and sometimes aggressive-aggressive back-and-forth between siblings and parents and children, plus the unstated hierarchies of the New York intelligentsia.