Review by Christine Thompson
Cue the whiny middle-aged self-absorbed white guy (Brad Sloan, played by Ben Stiller), comparing himself to others as he prepares to launch his only son to an ivy-league college. Self-absorbed soliloquies interjected sporadically through the film give a clue to Brad’s state of mind, who runs a non-profit that connects other non-profits with wealthy donors and fears his famous college friends are richer, smarter, more connected, and more famous than he is.
His son Troy (played by Austin Abrams) watches with deadpan expression as his father accompanies him to an interview at Harvard, and throughout the film his expression varies only slightly as he plays the calm straight man to the neurotic father. Brad is taking things very personally as he tries to navigate the selection process with Troy, interjecting his own fears and extrapolating Troy’s successes and failures into his own life experience.
By the end of the film, you see an evolution of Brad’s mindset, as he is called out by Troy’s friend and the realization that his college buddies have success with a price, finding that their imagined lifestyles are by turns over-imagined and over-rated ( Luke Wilson’s character Jason Hatfield). In the one case where a friend is actually rich, famous and powerful, a meeting reveals the guy (Craig Fisher, smugly played character Michael Sheen) has turned into a major asshat …so, “what price success?”
The end of the movie hits a sweet spot, with the reveal of what is most important in life.