OUR IDIOT BROTHER
Ned (Paul Rudd) is happy to grow organic vegetables on a farm with his hippie girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) and his dog named Willie Nelson, but an ill-advised incident with marijuana at a farmer's market lands him in jail. When he gets out of jail, he goes to live with his sisters Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Liz (Emily Mortimer) with her husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) and their young son River (Matthew Mindler). While Ned is still happy, his sisters are much less so after he manages to screw up a marriage, a work opportunity, a budding relationship and a domestic partnership. He sees those problems as breakdowns in communication, but his sisters see him as an idiot.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ned (Paul Rudd) has many flaws and two redeeming features: one, he always thinks the best of people and two, he loves his dog, Willie Nelson. The downside of the former is that he is so naïve he bungles things and bumps into the relationship furniture around him. He innocently repeats things he is told - which were meant to be for his ears only.
One such incident involves his sister Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) who is trying to make a name for herself as a journalist. When he finds out details from her interview subject she couldn't, she is delighted - but her sneaky attempt backfires and she loses the gig.
But we know he's a walking disaster zone from the start, when a cop approaches him at the stall where he sells his organic vegies, telling him a sob story and asking Ned to sell him some dope. The dope falls for it and is put in jail. (Not for being naïve, I hasten to add.) When he gets out and his parole officer (excellent work from Sterling Brown) begins speaking to him ever so slowly ... because seeing what he's done, he says he assumes Ned to be retarded. Boom boom.
We are given a few more examples of Ned's shambling and well meaning gaffes, so much so it starts to feel like the filmmakers think we the audience are also retarded. They labour the point and overstate every point so much that all the excellent characterisations are somewhat wasted.
Those characters are the film's greatest assets; everyone from youngster Matthew Mindler as the overprotected 8 year old River to his on screen parents Liz (Emily Mortimer) and her pompous husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) - who are excused for being English in an American family because he is a documentary maker - are spot on.
Rashida Jones is amusingly edgy as the hippie Cindy who didn't wait for Ned while he was in jail, and her new and malleable boyfriend, Billy, played by T. J. Miller with ferocious hair. Also outstanding are Adam Scott as Jeremy, who is knocked off course from a pending relationship by ... you guessed it, Ned.
The sisters are all wonderfully conflicted each in their own way, and the love-hate relationships work well, with Ned the permanent grain of sand.
And yes, ultimately the oyster that is this family does produce a pearl, in the shape of a resolution that ties everything into a neat bow. The film has a two-tone sensibility, mixing rumpus fun with attempts at meaningful observational drama, and it's a bit simplistic, but has enough entertainment value to pass muster. Just.
Published first by the Sun-Herald
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OUR IDIOT BROTHER (M)
CAST: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, T. J. Miller, Matthew Mindler, Peter Hermann, Adam Scott, Sterling Brown, Hugh Dancy, Bob Stephenson,
PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman
DIRECTOR: Jesse Peretz
SCRIPT: Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yaron Orbach
EDITOR: Jacob Craycroft, Andrew Mondshein
MUSIC: Eric D. Johnson, Nathan Larson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Inbal Weinberg
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2011