Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Idiot Brother (2011) – Review

Review: Our Idiot Brother is funny, but plays much more like a character piece and a drama than what the marketing would suggest. The film does not work at all if you go into it expecting an R-rated comedy (similar to the work Paul Rudd has done with Judd Apatow), because that is not the type of film it is at all. Rather, it is a light drama (that is also funny at times) centered on Ned and his three sisters and how he kind of exists on a different wavelength and interrupts their lives when he falls on hard times and needs their help. Director Jesse Peretz does a terrible job with the tone and structure of the film, ultimately ruining the good performances from the great cast. The film is clearly not a straightforward comedy, but Peretz tries to make it work as if it were with his tone – and thus many of the conversations seem as if they are supposed to be funny but are not (I am not sure they were really intended to play that way in the script). The tone is very lighthearted and happy-go-lucky (much like the character Ned), creating a world in which nothing bad can possible happen, yet the story is about the struggles that each character has with their relationships (and the contrast of Ned in the real world would have been more compelling). The tone does not fit the material at all. Peretz also has no cohesive story structure. The film is about Ned trying to get money so he can move back to his old home so he can be closer to his dog, but it is more about the relationship he has with his sisters and their relationships with their significant others. As is, the story just sort of meanders around clumsily touching on story elements, but nothing really feels important or engaging, because the structure is not defined (and really the narrative is not defined; it is just sort of vague), and thus the resolution is fairly meaningless. All that said the film still manages to be somewhat enjoyable purely from a performance and character standpoint, as many of the actors (especially Rudd) do very good work. While Our Idiot Brother is a failure of narrative filmmaking, the actors still make it a little funny and dramatically engaging (somehow). By the end, the audience actually cares about Ned (and that is solely due to the work of Rudd and the other actors).

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Jesse Peretz can add yet another horribly directed film to his resume (and honestly, I have nothing against him, but I just hate to see talented actors wasted by poor filmmakers). The original songs and score by Eric D. Johnson and Nathan Larson are fairly good and fit the film well. The found music is also good (here is an example). Yaron Orbach’s cinematography has a straightforward indie style to it, which also fits the picture, but Inbal Weinberg’s production design is probably the most interesting technical/aesthetic work in the film, as he contrasts each character against the others with their unique living spaces. The cast is wonderful in the film, and are really the only reason it is not terrible. Rashida Jones and Adam Scott shine among the smaller supporting roles, while the three sisters Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and especially Emily Mortimer bring a lot to their characters (when really the script does not give them too much, but the actresses do a great job fleshing them out). Paul Rudd continues to show that he is not just a funny guy, but a fantastic dramatic actor. He completely goes for the character of Ned, and is lovable, heartfelt and sincere (when many actors would not have been able to pull it off, or made a joke of him).

Summary & score: The brilliant cast saves the film from sheer awfulness (and for many viewers, they probably do not), but I also think Our Idiot Brother works a lot better if you go into it thinking it will be a character piece, as that is what it is meant to be. 6/10

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