October 23, 2013

Our Idiot Brother

Jesse Peretz, 2011

Ned (Paul Rudd) has run into some tough luck with some legal troubles and a breakup with his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn). He turns to his three sisters, who all seem to be preoccupied with their own lives to provide support.

An ensemble cast fuels the film with a lot of the usual suspects of the modern comedy world. Paul Rudd brings his very Paul Rudd persona to the film, and that's never really a bad thing. His character in this film would be the equivalent to his character in Wanderlust if he lived in the commune for years and were suddenly evicted. He possesses a certain naivete that doesn't really help him elevate him in any kind of professional capacity but he certainly should sleep better at night than his sisters do. He means well. Tries to do the right thing. A happy failure. Failure is a subjective term though. Is he a failure because he doesn't have the house, or the children, or the job? His sisters play hot potato with his couch surfing, and don't really feel any kind of familial gravitational pull. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is completely obsessed with making her mark in her journalism career. Liz (Emily Mortimer) is wrapped up in with her children and seemingly disinterested husband. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is just wrapped up in herself. Maybe they all are. All of these different lifestyles, but with one common theme. They all push Ned away despite the fact that he is really the one force that can help them. How does he help? That's sort of complicated. Hard to say really. You could say things have to get bad before they get better? Sometimes you need a good shakeup in your life? Testing the foundation? Maybe all of those. Ned comes in like a hippie tornado, and completely disrupts their lives, and the whole time has this whole "Whoa, was just trying to help... didn't mean for all of this to happen!" approach to it all. And that feels genuine, and quite charming.

And it's a modern comedy so of course it has its flaws. The attempt to ugly up Rashida Jones is quite obvious, and quite honestly... still fails. You need more than a giant pair of dorky glasses on her face to do that. Why did she need to be "uglied up" in the first place? Let her be her. Is it Peretz' attempt to make her more of the tomboy lesbian type? In the end, not really important and not so pertinent to the overall plot. Emily Mortimer's English accent leaks throughout the film. The attempted backdrop of New York City feels completely absent. The fact that those are the flaws actually speaks well for the film. Everything is actually put together quite nicely. The funny hits the target when it needs to (often having an effective Improv-ish tone), and the dramatic moments hit close enough.

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