“The Meyerowitz Stories,” “Only the Brave”: What to See in Theatres This Weekend

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Photograph by Netflix / Everett

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”

Anybody hoping that Noah Baumbach might stretch his wings and make a movie about the Roman Empire or intergalactic warfare will have to wait. For now, he stays in his discomfort zone: messed-up modern families in New York. The patriarch of the Meyerowitzes is Harold (Dustin Hoffman), who aimed to be the great sculptor of his generation and missed, though you wouldn’t know it from his manner—lordly, intemperate, and blisteringly quick to take offense. This has not made things easy for his sons, Matthew (Ben Stiller), who lives in Los Angeles and makes good money, and Danny (Adam Sandler), who does nothing much except fret, or for his desolate daughter, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel). Other characters are tossed into the mix: Harold’s latest wife, the boozy Maureen (Emma Thompson), and his granddaughter, Eliza (Grace Van Patten), who, alone in the clan, seems lightened by hope and good sense. Baumbach not only finds time and room for these restless souls but makes us believe in them as they clash, make peace, and clash again. The movie is comically intimate with their lives, yet it covers a lot of ground. With Judd Hirsch, as Harold’s rival of old.—Anthony Lane (In limited release and on Netflix.)


Photograph by Richard Foreman / Columbia Pictures / Everett

“Only the Brave”

This vigorous melodrama is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an unheralded and underfunded local Arizona wildfire-fighting company that struggled, a decade ago, to gain recognition as a first-rank force. The action is centered on the company’s wise and taciturn superintendent, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), whose fierce devotion to the outfit masks his troubled past. The newest recruit, Brendan McDonough, a.k.a. Donut (Miles Teller), is a recovering drug user and a longtime slacker who, after the birth of his daughter, finds a newfound purpose in the hard and dangerous work. Meanwhile, Eric confronts unresolved issues with his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), a horse trainer who has also overcome personal trouble. Though the movie, based on an article in GQ, by Sean Flynn, offers fascinating insights into the practical exertions and bureaucratic complications of firefighting, it places much greater emphasis on the protagonists’ personal lives. The depiction of heroic courage is stirring and the acting is uniformly hearty (Jeff Bridges shines as a crusty fire chief), but the trenchant dialogue (from a script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer) is delivered with familiar histrionics, and the drama is so tightly focussed that it becomes an implausibly narrow vision of white working-class men keeping the country running. Directed by Joseph Kosinski; co-produced by Condé Nast Entertainment.—Richard Brody (In wide release.)


Photogaph by Mary Cybulski / Roadside Attractions/ Amazon / Everett

“Wonderstruck”

Time and again, the new Todd Haynes film steps back and forth between the nineteen-twenties and 1977. Two separate tales are told, and we gradually understand how they converge. One, shot in needle-sharp black-and-white, stars Millicent Simmonds, as Rose, a deaf girl who flees Hoboken for Manhattan to track down a movie star—her idol, and more—who is appearing onstage. In the second story, a motherless kid named Ben (Oakes Fegley, who was excellent as the hero of “Pete’s Dragon”) somehow loses his hearing in a lightning strike, in Gunflint, Minnesota. He, too, takes off, to search for his long-lost father in New York. The screenplay is adapted by Brian Selznick (the author of “Hugo”) from his own novel, and the result shows an unstinting attention to detail, and, in particular, to the recurring theme of speechlessness; Haynes even makes up his own silent movie, with the Griffith-like title “Daughter of the Storm.” But the careful patterning of the narrative is achieved at the expense of dramatic verve, and it is left to Julianne Moore, who appears in both parts of the film, to suffuse it with life and warmth.—A.L. (In limited release.)


Photograph by Barry Wetcher / Open Road Films / Everett

“Marshall”

The director Reginald Hudlin brings an apt blend of vigor and empathy to this historical drama, set in 1941. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, a thirty-three-year-old N.A.A.C.P. attorney who is dispatched to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to represent a black man, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), who is accused of the rape and attempted murder of a wealthy white woman (Kate Hudson) for whom he worked as a chauffeur. As an out-of-state attorney, Marshall has to be paired with a local lawyer; his reluctant partner, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), is an insurance specialist with no defense experience. Meanwhile, the judge hearing the case high-handedly bars Marshall from speaking in court, reducing him to Friedman’s silent counsel. Much of the action is set in the courtroom, where Hudlin (working with a script by the Bridgeport attorney Michael Koskoff and his son, the screenwriter Jacob Koskoff) lends physical energy to the language of ideas. He ties the dialectical action to Marshall’s energetic and plainspoken brilliance—and to the behind-the-scenes insights of Marshall’s wife, Buster (Keesha Sharp), and a random woman he meets in a bar. Meanwhile, the movie urgently dramatizes the threat of racist violence that poisons personal relationships and judicial proceedings alike.—R.B. (In wide release.)