Friday, August 26, 2011

Jesse Peretz: Idiocy in a Pseudo-Indie Key (Our Idiot Brother)

Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, Our Idiot Brother, Weinstein Co., 2011.

The hoary cliches and crap fueled clinchers of Studio comedies are becoming indistinguishable from the pseudo-indie flicks which were once set apart. The Hangover and Crazy Stupid Love and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy may as well be the same picture; their forceful crassness and formless prostitution to the lowest common denominator make one want to book it for the exits in an uproarious upchuck.

That a simple and sweet natured film like Jesse Peretz's Our Idiot Brother falls into the mundane mechanisms of the current sleep wave is alarming. A family comedy with a sharp cast should either be more truthful, more hilarious or a combination of both. Paul Rudd's aw shucks charisma as the pure, sweet natured hippie bro of three obnoxiously self involved sisters is an antidote to the awfulness of a script co-written by the director's sister, drowned in a combo of sweet/sour and nauseating. The fact that Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel play the unbearable sisters is no consolation. Three excellent actresses in poisonously shrill characters make for an ugly mix. Shirley Knight, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, Katherine Hahn and Adam Scott are all stuck in thankless also ran parts.

Peretz's directorial debut was the masterful indie-film First Love, Last Rites (1998), which pulled us into a fevered spell of young love and obsession. His sophomore flick, The Chateau (2001) starred Rudd and Romany Malco, and was a slight if likable satire. After that, you can feel the director's talents as a dramatist and a mood maker urging toward Hawksian screwball and Capraesque humanism getting flushed by the regulations of modern moronic comedy, their stipulations on wretched conventions and flat characterization. The Ex (2006) and now Our Idiot Brother have so much promise, yet stranded in the studio sanctioned idiocy of audience expectations.

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