One of the many great films I saw at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was writer-director Mike White’s Brad’s Status. The dramedy stars Ben Stiller as a middle-aged man working for a non-profit who suffers something of a mid-life crisis while accompanying his musical prodigy son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of Harvard. From the outside, Stiller’s got a loving wife (Jenna Fischer) and a great life, but he’s actually miserable. The biggest problem? He can’t stop comparing himself to his old college friends (Luke Wilson, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement and Mike White) who appear to be far more successful on their social media feeds. As the film unfolds, we hear Stiller’s character’s inner voice wondering about the choices he’s made and his envy as he watches his friends from afar. While the reliance on voiceover could have been a disaster, because of Mike White’s fantastic script, you start to understand his jealousy even when his life looks perfect. Also, while most don’t say it aloud, I think everyone at one point has wondered about the choices they’ve made after they’ve seen friends get ahead in the rat race and thought, “Why not me?” It’s that kind of emotional honesty in the film and script that will cause many to look inward.
Shortly after seeing the film, I sat down with Mike White for an exclusive video interview. He talked about where the idea for Brad’s Status came from, what he learned from early screenings, if the film changed a lot in the editing room, if he has lot of unmade scripts in his desk, where did the term “status anxiety” come from, and how he’s learned that if he really wants to get something made the way he wants, he doesn’t get paid.
Check out what she had to say in the player above and below is what we talked about followed by the official synopsis. For more on Brad’s Status you can read Phil Brown’s glowing review. Brad’s Status is now playing in New York and Los Angeles and expanding into more cities this weekend.
- Where did the idea come from? Talks about how this is something he was thinking about for a while.
- How the dialogue and situations feel real. How much is that on the page and how much is that adjusted in the moment?
- What did he learn from early screenings that impacted the finished film?
- Where did the term “status anxiety” come from and how he is talking about things in Brad’s Status that not many films tackle.
- Does he have a number of scripts in the desk?
- How he’s learned that if he really wants something made and made the way he wants he doesn’t get paid.
- Did his movie change a lot in the editing room?
Here’s the Brad’s Status official synopsis:
When Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) accompanies his college bound son to the East Coast, the visit triggers a crisis of confidence in Brad’s Status, writer and director Mike White’s bittersweet comedy. Brad has a satisfying career and a comfortable life in suburban Sacramento where he lives with his sweet-natured wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer), and their musical prodigy son, Troy (Austin Abrams), but it’s not quite what he imagined during his college glory days. Showing Troy around Boston, where Brad went to university, he can’t help comparing his life with those of his four best college friends: a Hollywood bigshot (White), a hedge fund founder (Luke Wilson), a tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement), and a political pundit and bestselling author (Michael Sheen). As he imagines their wealthy, glamorous lives, he wonders if this is all he will ever amount to. But when circumstances force him to reconnect with his former friends, Brad begins to question whether he has really failed or is, in some ways at least, the most successful of them all.