In the new movie Brad's Status, Ben Stiller plays Brad, a middle-aged dad who lives a middle-class life in Sacramento with his wife, and teen-aged son, Troy. As the movie begins, Brad sets out with Troy on a tour of prospective colleges, and it's fair to say he's having trouble counting his blessings. His mind is consumed with comparing himself to his own friends from college, all of whom -- at least on social media -- seem richer and happier than he is.
Brad's insecurity only grows when he realizes that his son, played by Austin Abrams, has a real shot at getting into Harvard (Brad was rejected from Yale and went to Tufts instead).
Our guest today is Mike White, the writer and director of Brad's Status. He's written the screenplays for many movies and created the HBO series Enlightened.
While Brad's Status highlights the pitfalls of living a life informed by social media, it's also about the bond between father and son. White has an unusual father-son story of his own: his dad was a minister, heavily involved in the evangelical movement, who specialized in ghostwriting auto-biographies for people like Jerry Falwell. His father later came out as gay and became an activist for LGBT rights.
White tells us about competing on The Amazing Race with his dad (twice!), having a nervous breakdown while working on a show called Cracking Up, and why he thinks it's harder to make humanist films like Brad's Status today than when he directed his previous film Year of the Dog 10 years ago.