Ben Stiller plays Brad Sloan in the new movie from writer/director Mike White, Brad’s Status. Brad leads a comfortable life with his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and his son Troy (Austin Abrams). They get along just fine and are happy, but Brad feels somewhat unfulfilled. His mid-life crisis happens just as Troy is about to head to college. Wanting to support his son, Brad joins him on a trip to visit various schools.
Along the way, Brad’s ennui is only amplified by constant reminders of the outsized success enjoyed by some of his own friends from years ago. They’re all power players: Mike (White) in Hollywood, Jason (Luke Wilson) on Wall Street, Billy (Jemaine Clement) in tech and Craig (Michael Sheen) as an author. So Brad has to grapple with his own seemingly-unrealized potential while trying to guide his son through a major life moment.
The first poster features Stiller and Abrams, the former looking lovingly at the latter. What’s unique is that they’re divided by an outline of Abrams’ face and body like one of the images where you’re asked if you see a woman’s face or a candlestick. A positive quote from an early review is at the top and at the bottom is the copy “The success you’ve been searching for may be right next to you,” a line that obviously is related to the relationship between these two characters.
As the trailer opens we see Brad intrude on and have an awkward moment with his son Troy before the two head off to visit colleges. Brad is nostalgic for the life he never had, though, thinking about the success of his old friends. That midlife crisis coincides with the fact that he’s sending his son off to the next phase of his own life.
It’s funny and emotional and dammit, I get it. I like Stiller in more dramatic roles, including those where he’s just not asked to go super-crazy so this works for me. It lays out the story pretty well, making it clear it revolves around the relationship between Brad and Troy, promising plenty of uncomfortable moments along the way.
Online and Social
There’s not a whole lot happening on the movie’s official website. It just has the “Trailer,” a brief “Synopsis” and a prompt to buy tickets. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, where updates about the release, clips and other information have been shared.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Not aware of any paid advertising that was done, though it’s entirely possible I’ve missed something.
Media and Publicity
Annapurna and Amazon partnered on a distribution deal that was closed and announced at Cannes, with a release date just four months out set at that time. It was later included among other movies screening at the Toronto Film Festival, a screening that resulted in middling buzz.
An interview with Stiller revealed he received the script accidentally but became hooked by the story and made his case for the part, which allowed him to bring the anxiety he’s sometimes known for to bear in a father-son story.
White also talked about the inspiration behind the story, how his relationship with his father is reflected on screen and more. He also touched on the choice to direct this movie and the kinds of characters he enjoys creating. Wilson got involved as well, with an interview where he talked about working with Stiller as well as his career in general.
I’ve written quite a bit in the last year or so about how we’re drowning in movies telling of the troubles and restlessness of privileged white people. All that while one of the key press points about movies like the upcoming Mudbound is that studios are nervous because two movies about slavery inside of one year might be one too many.
This campaign certainly shows Brad’s Status to be in that category as well and so I’m inclined to look a bit sideways at it. But while we can’t ignore the over-indexing on this type of story, as well as the criminal underuse of Jenna Fischer (not just here but in general), it also strikes a chord with me because, quite frankly, the story reflects where I’m at. I may not have the entourage of super-successful childhood friends, but hitting me with a story about a dad wrestling with his own life as his oldest son begins his own…well…there are all the feels on that.
What the marketing does well is use Stiller’s nervous energy, which has aged pretty well, as one of the primary hooks. He’s all awkward nods and interjections, traits that have served him well and which should appeal to the audience in general.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.