Ben Stiller Movie ‘Brad’s Status’ is All of Us

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In the movie “Brad’s Status,” Brad is a guy in his late forties obsessed with his position, or lack thereof, in life. Brad’s married, has a job and a house, not tons of money but enough of it, and yet he spends his days stalking his college buddies on social media. Through pictures and status updates, he fantasizes about how successful they are and all the ways that he is not.

One friend manages a large hedge fund; another is a famous political commentator; one’s a Hollywood director; and another sold his tech company and retired to Hawaii before age 40. Meanwhile, Brad is stuck in Sacramento. He’s got a wife and kid and runs a non-profit nobody gives a shit about. He’s conventional and boring, the upper middle class shmuck who has everything, but still wants more.

The movie pivots around Brad taking his son across the country so he can visit colleges. As a kid, Brad wanted to attend Yale, but ‘settled’ for Tufts. The son, meanwhile, thinks he’ll get into Yale; heck, he’ll probably go to Harvard. This makes Brad exceptionally happy, but in a weird way, also jealous. He starts thinking one day his son might be more successful than he is, and that kills him.

At Harvard, Brad gets a lesson in how fortunate he actually is. One night, while his son sleeps, he goes drinking with a young girl, a friend of his son’s, now attending Harvard. She thinks what Brad does — working for a non-profit — is actually cool. She’s excited to hear him talk about it, but it isn’t long before he’s telling her things she doesn’t expect to hear.

Get rich, he sort of tells her, then you can do whatever you want. It’s easier to help people that way.

She tells him that as a white guy with a family and job and no money problems — that is, no real problems — he isn’t doing so bad for himself. Actually, he’s doing kind of great. He insists though that he’s losing the competition; she wonders why he’s even competing in the first place. Like, what is it that Brad actually wants?

Anyway, it’s his son who brings him back down to earth. Because he’s like — Dad, I love you, and in the grand scheme of life, isn’t that the only status that is important? He tells his dad that earlier in the day, during an argument on campus, he thought Brad was embarrassing him, and that everyone would always remember that moment. But then he realizes: actually, nobody cares.

The quiet message of “Brad’s Status” is that in an increasingly narcissistic time period, one where we’re constantly looking at others, trying to see how we measure up, the truth is, most people are too busy thinking about themselves to think about you.

You think you don’t measure up, that you’ve lost the game of life, but as long as you’re still alive, you can focus on the things that are actually important. Not how strangers see you. But how the people who love you do. And most importantly, how you see yourself.

My apologies if I spoiled this movie for you. The movie is not new. You can still watch it and it will be great.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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