Dying In Pieces

My father is dying in the same way that Harold Meyerowitz is dying in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) — in pieces.

Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) is a New York-based sculptor whose work has gone out of fashion and does not merit the solo retrospectives that he expected. He’s in the hospital with a brain injury. His three children congregate back in New York to process their father’s hospitalization. My father is in the hospital in California. Yesterday, he had gunk sucked out of his arteries, built-up from decades of working as a surveyor and a Midwestern mindset that one doesn’t deserve to make time for anything beyond working and drinking. I am not going to visit. I am on the other side of the country trying to pursue ‘my art.’

My motivations make me feel guilty, but they are also built off of hope — hope that my efforts will be worth something. But, sometimes its hard to listen to my hopes.

As I watch Harold Meyerowitz knock things out of his adult children’s hands, it becomes so clear that this is how he’s always done things, head injury or not. He dangles his relative success in front of his children as a measuring stick for their own success and as a reminder of the resources they are lucky to have. He fears that they will surpass him.

I, like the children, am fearful of failure and of comparison. I am also afraid that I am Harold, knocking everything out of my own hands with hatred and doubt. I wish that my father would play this role instead.

Harold’s sculptures are ignored by the art world and donated to retirement homes. It makes me wonder what the point of all that narcissism was – all the resources and time, and more than anything, the pain he caused to those around him.

I also wonder: What is parent supposed to do for their child? What do I owe my parents? Am I required to be there to watch them wither? Or, do I owe that to myself? Maybe I owe it to their partner, or to my sibling. How will I resemble my parents when I am withering?

I tend to seek out movies for comfort or guidance. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) seems to just exist alongside me. Meandering and struggling, it is comforting, for some reason, to watch old, sad people make their way through life. Still, I find myself seeking conclusions beyond the world of the Meyerowitz family. Yet, these thoughts intrude on a world where I cannot pause my father’s trajectory and so, I play the movie again at a more convenient time. – Lilac Friel

Lilac Friel is 23, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is trying to live well. 

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach
Runtime: 112 min.

Rating: TV-MA