Netflix is pulling from all corners of the film world to establish itself as a serious player in the movie business. Its latest original, which hits the service today, might just be unstoppable.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a family dramedy starring Adam Sandler that tells the story of three siblings who reunite with their estranged sculptor father to celebrate his artistic achievements. Netflix couldn’t have found a more fitting film if its algorithms made it themselves.
Sure, War Machine has Brad Pitt. But The Meyerowitz Stories stars Sandler, who is arguably bigger on the platform. Sandler’s Netflix original films, which include lowbrow comedies like The Do-Over, The Ridiculous 6, and Sandy Wexler, are the most watched original movies on the service. Its 100 million users have collectively spent more than 500 million hours watching Sandler’s titles. And his Happy Madison Productions has a deal to produce projects exclusively for the streaming service. (This is not one of them.)
Sandler plays a failed musician focused on raising his daughter, in the new movie.
The rest of the cast is spectacular, too. Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman plays Sandler’s father. Comedian Ben Stiller plays his more successful business-minded brother. And the distinguished Emma Thompson plays the father’s current wife. Well-rounded, recognizable casts such as these have served Netflix well before. Think Stranger Things.
And the movie has a revered independent filmmaker in the wings. Noah Baumbach, who is no stranger to chronicling dysfunction, wrote and directed acclaimed movies like the Oscar-nominated The Squid and the Whale and co-wrote Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He wrote, directed, and co-produced The Meyerowitz Stories.
The Meyerowitz Stories competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, alongside Okja. Despite the controversy surrounding Netflix’s presence in the competition, the movie has gotten stellar reviews. The New York Times called Sandler’s performance “a revelation,” (paywall) and Rolling Stone called the movie “flat-out brilliant.” It had a 91% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, based on nearly 90 reviews. That, by the way, makes it Sandler’s best-reviewed movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes.
In spite of the rave reviews, The Meyerowitz Stories isn’t an obvious box-office hit. Adult dramas haven’t done well in cinemas lately. And in a season where would be hits like Warner Bros.’s Blade Runner sequel fumbled, it’s hard to imagine that The Meyerowitz Stories would have set any box-office records. That makes it perfect for Netflix, which isn’t beholden to box-office returns and likes backing talent with mid-sized, non-superhero movies. The film is getting a small theatrical run in tandem with its streaming release.