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Always Look At The Whole Picture

Always Look At The Whole Picture
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Photo: Amazon Studios

BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

“Your friends sound like dicks.” This is not the admonishment from a father to a son, but from son to father in the new film Brad’s Status.

Suburban Sacramento dad, Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller), can’t measure up to his former university buddies, who are now Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Capitol Hill big shots, and seem one Instagram post away from having their faces replace those on Mount Rushmore.

He’s never felt this more than when he accompanies his son Troy (Austin Abrams) on college visits to his old New England stomping ground.

It was bad enough when we were younger and compared and despaired in person or via hearsay, but it’s now been exacerbated by social media, which allows us to curate our lives for maximum envy.

Brad actually has a lot to covet. Aside from having a musical prodigy child, who can be described as “a good boy,” Brad has a supportive wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and a satisfying career working at a non-profit. His friendship with Troy and soulmate connection with Melanie are the stuff that many would kill for.

Yet, Brad is having a crisis of confidence. His existence is all very nice, but a far cry from the master of the universe vision he had of his life back in college, and from his pre-2008 success as a journalist with an award-winning website.

You can relate to Brad if you’ve ever felt not quite up to snuff, lacking even though you have so much to be thankful for—because, of course, it’s not as much as the Kardashians and Real Housewives who fly private and shop without consequence.

Situations like these work in tandem with signing onto social media to realize everyone but you is on European holiday, relaxing poolside in what looks like a palatial backyard, or giving a play-by-play of their child’s victorious sports team as though it were a Disney movie.

Then strangers pile on. In Brad’s case, it’s a restaurant hostess who sizes him up as not their type of clientele, insisting there are no available tables when an inviting one sits empty in the center of the room.

I live in Manhattan and know the sting of being cast aside, especially for the celebrated. I and my wet hair sat in a salon chair unattended for almost an hour because Natasha Richardson (may she rest) walked in; the stylist and staff could not bow low or long enough. I waited for my table to be bussed at an Upper East Side restaurant only to have it given to Frank Langella, who was a walk-in. And how could I not acknowledge the time I stood ignored in a deli on Sixth Avenue as the counter guys argued over who would have the honor of buttering Lena Horne’s bialy.

It can make you throw your hands in the air and inquire to no one in particular, “Where did I go wrong?”

Really though, who among us has actually “gone wrong”?

It might be fun to walk a Red Carpet in fancy clothes, but to do so would you trade lives with anyone on reality TV?

By meeting up with his old pals, Brad reminds us of the famous scene in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy & Co. realize that the great and powerful Oz is just a mere mortal behind a curtain.

His friends may be captains of industry, but insecure ones, referring to Brad’s business, where he matches wealthy donors with charities, as “that little thing you’re doing.” Making someone feel small to make yourself appear taller? That’s a loser’s game. And these guys are…well, perhaps not the winners as portrayed on social media.

As the movie progressed and I remembered to count my own blessings, I really just wanted Brad to get with the program and acknowledge that in his own way, he’s more successful than any of them. And more importantly, he probably shouldn’t have been using their best-foot-forward photo montages as a measuring stick to begin with.

 

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.