Film Review: “The Magnificent Meyersons” Drifts Towards Ambiguity
Written by: Robin C. Farrell | August 19th, 2021
The Magnificent Meyersons (Evan Oppenheimer, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars.
At the center of The Magnificent Meyersons are the five Meyerson children, their mother, their grandmother, and, eventually, their father, introduced through a series of vignette-like scenes during which they go about their day-to-day life and ponder their past, their future, their existence, and the existence of God. The exhibition is not as solemn as such a premise might imply. In fact, it almost goes over a little too breezily. The slice-of-life, free-form style of storytelling can often be rewarding but in this case, that approach doesn’t quite succeed.
The pacing overall feels more suited to a stage play, especially in the first half of the film, when the Meyersons walk through the city or perch somewhere stationary to deliberate interesting, yet self-contained topics, mostly table-setting for the somewhat ambiguous ending. The disconnected nature of it all makes it difficult to connect with, and the conversations often slip into feeling slightly contrived. Kate Mulgrew (Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black), as Dr. Terri Meyerson, Barbara Barrie (Above All Things), as Celeste, and Daniel Eric Gold (Easy Living), as Daniel Meyerson have, by far, the most naturalistic presentation, and they become the most compelling characters, along with a one-time-appearing couple, Madeline (Sarah Nealis, Keep In Touch) and Emory (Andrew Hovelson, Stranger in the Dunes). When Terri delivers the unfortunate news to them that their daughter will die in three months’ time, their response is one of the most engaging moments of the entire film.
As for the big “twist” element introduced in the middle of the film that’s hinted at in the trailer, it barely registers in the overarching story. It’s possible that it’s intended to serve as a metaphor for the absent father, Morty (Richard Kind, Bernard and Huey), but it’s not strong enough a metaphor to make its inclusion worthwhile. The film attempts to evoke a curiosity in the past, and specifically Morty’s abandonment of the family, largely through late-introduced flashbacks, but their history is never quite made fully clear. It would seem that the more natural direction of the film would have been to focus on who the kids grew up to be in Morty’s absence, rather than dwelling so heavily on the past.
The film ultimately doesn’t quite lean far enough in any particular direction to make a distinct impression. The characters are intriguing on their own, and provocative questions are proposed throughout, on a variety of subjects, but none that feel aimed towards a particular conclusion. A bit more finesse or even a greater comedic approach might have helped ground the film. As it stands, though, The Magnificent Meyersons winds up feeling a bit inconclusive and, thus, a trifle unsatisfying.