Brad’s Status

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From left: Brad, Brad's son. Not pictures: Brad's status.

“Brad’s Status,” built around an interior monologue and reflections on the past, might have worked better as a novel, though it would have been a slight one. More of a novella, probably. Instead, Mike White wrote and directed it for the screen, where it’s still rather lightweight but benefits from Ben Stiller’s honest, likable performance. It’s the second time that White, an indie screenwriter (“Chuck & Buck,” “School of Rock”), has gotten behind the camera (see the deadpan “Year of the Dog”), and he has some uncomfortably funny insights into the modern man.

Stiller plays Brad Sloan, a restless suburbanite for whom a Boston trip with his son (Austin Abrams) to look at colleges is an opportunity to stew over how his own college friends (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson, and Mike White) are now more successful than he is. They’ve lost touch over the years, so Brad mostly relies on Facebook and his imagination to conjure images of their affluent lives. The movie shows Brad’s fantasies of his friends’ lives as if they were objective reality when in fact they have been adorned by his insecurities. The voice in Brad’s head yammers on and on with depressing comparisons to his former peers.

But Brad himself is gainfully employed, happily married (to Jenna Fischer!), and has a loving son. He’s a whiner who needs to check his privilege. Fortunately, writer-director White realizes this and doesn’t let Brad wallow in self-absorption for so long that it becomes exasperating. Instead, we watch in amusement as Brad fumbles from one simple epiphany to another, trying to impress his son with his Harvard contacts, trying to outdo a particular old friend (Michael Sheen has the most screen time of them), working himself into a lather over things that we know do not matter. He gradually learns the lessons that you’d have predicted he’d learn if you’d written down your guesses at the beginning of the movie. There’s nothing revelatory here, but it’s gently humorous and sympathetic to its hapless main character, who you may rest assured comes to appreciate his blessings by the time it’s over.

B (1 hr., 42 min.; R, a lot of profanity, brief mild sexuality.)