Published Aug 25, 2011The nebulous nature of family is explored in Our Idiot Brother, a funny film that loses a bit of its charm via some one-dimensional characterizations, but gains it back thanks to a dynamic lead performance from Paul Rudd.
In Brother, Rudd plays Ned, a well meaning, woefully naïve organic farmer (read: hippie) whose naivety lands him a stint in the hoosegow after sympathetically selling weed to a uniformed police officer. Following his rehabilitation (with time off for good behaviour, of course), Ned attempts to return to his farm, only to be bum rushed by his self-righteous, deadlocked, now ex-girlfriend and separated from his beloved golden retriever, Willie Nelson.
Keeping his positive mental attitude intact, Ned turns to his three sisters: career-driven Miranda (Elizabeth Banks, looking and sounding distractingly like Parker Posey), confused bisexual Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) and power-mom Liz (Emily Mortimer). But, gosh darn it if Ned doesn't quite mesh with their fast-paced, modern NYC sensibilities.
The presence of Paul Rudd, coupled with the familial subject matter and smart, well-to-do white people acting crazy and bitching about their lives, earmarks Our Idiot Brother as being of the Judd Apatow stable. And while unrelated, the film does certainly follow the same sort of aesthetic: low-key dramedy mixed with occasional wackiness.
Rudd carries the film, and he's great as endearingly funny man-child Ned, never overplaying his aw-shucks demeanour for cheap laughs and easy caricature. Well written on the whole by first-timers David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz, Brother's greatest fault is its unadventurous direction by Jesse Peretz and odd, washed-out look. Obviously a film like this isn't meant to have the grandiose visuals of something like The Tree of Life, but Peretz is content to let the screenplay direct the film, rarely attempting to experiment beyond the standard mid-level master shot and express himself visually.
This becomes a problem when the film's climaxes rise and the dialogue is pitched at a needlessly whiny level. Wisely, the Our Idiot Brother never loses focus of Ned, and Rudd, one of the most subtly gifted comedic actors in the biz, is captivating and eminently watchable in this well-deserved vehicle. (Maple)