Stars: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Austin Abrams, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jermaine Clement
While the latest squeamish comedy from writer-director Mike White explores a well-worn trope, it’s nevertheless a tart, funny take on white privilege. Stiller is Brad Sloane, a middle-aged man who runs a non-profit company. He and his adoring wife Melanie (Fischer) have a teenage son Troy (Abrams), a music prodigy in the process of deciding which college he wants to attend. During this period, Brad becomes fixated on his more successful college contemporaries: a hedge fund manager with a private plane, Jason (Wilson); tech founder Billy (Clement) who has already retired to an idyllic beach life; and author and TV politics pundit Craig Fisher (Sheen), who, years earlier, refused to invest in Brad’s company. When a glitch in their schedule means that Troy misses his interview at Harvard, Brad reluctantly has to ask Fisher for a favour, and during a dinner with his old friend, Brad’s various nagging resentments are finally expressed. While it’s not exactly unexplored territory for the actor, Stiller turns in what may be a career-best performance as the midlife crisis-beset protagonist, skilfully steering his character between sympathetic and whiny solipsism; the fraught but affectionate scenes with son Troy (excellent newcomer Abrams) in particular are beautifully played. And White’s script is insightful, curious and fearlessly honest.