Our Idiot Brother

After being released from jail for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer, Ned is kicked out by his girlfriend. Having nowhere to live, he appeals to his sisters who take him in. He then proceeds to turn their lives upside down. Relationships are presented in a refreshingly original take within an eccentric family.

Our Idiot Brother is funny. It’s full of sensitive, honest and heartfelt depictions. So why did the producers feel the need to saddle it with a title like “Our Idiot Brother?” It betrays the underlying sweetness of the story and casts a dim-witted vibe on the marketing. Much of the humor has to do with Ned’s hippie-style mentality in contrast to his sister’s more ambitious designs. For me, the big surprise was how I ended up liking the dude with the slacker mentality and resented his aggressive family members. Ned really isn’t an “idiot” per se. He’s just trusting and good natured. Those are good qualities in fact and make this comedy something to champion.

I adored the acting. The plot is character driven. It’s practically a drama with some amusing circumstances. Paul Rudd portrays a lackadaisical, but sweet biodynamic farmer. He’s matched by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer as his loving but seriously flawed sisters. That’s a strong supporting cast, all capable of greatness. This might be the best Elizabeth Banks has ever been. She reminded me of actress Parker Posey. As the go-getting journalist for Vanity Fair, she’s all brittle personality and chilly exterior. She’s memorable. It’s never clear how Ned acquired such a temperament so contrary to his more determined sisters, but it supplies the basis for a lot of funny situations. The rest of the actors are fantastic as well. I hate simply listing names but everyone bears a mention. Kathryn Hahn, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, and Rashida Jones round out the impressive list of players. It’s the ensemble work that raises the level of drama to something more than just a lightweight comedy.

Despite the high profile talent, the film has fairly indie roots. Budding director Jesse Peretz hasn’t directed any features of note. He was originally the founding bass player for the rock band The Lemonheads, but he left prior to their breakthrough 1992 album “It’s A Shame About Ray”. However, he remained directing videos for them (Mrs. Robinson, It’s a Shame about Ray) as well as for others like the Foo Fighters (Big Me, Learn to Fly). Married screenwriters David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz provide their debut screenplay. Yes Evgenia is the sister of the director, but she insists the script is not inspired by her brother. Regardless, the atmosphere has a winning authenticity. It’s a quality I especially loved. I must admit I didn’t expect much. Maybe it’s the way the movie confounded my expectations. I enjoyed it…a lot.

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8 Responses to “Our Idiot Brother”

  1. Agree pretty wholeheartedly except I liked the sisters as well…at least eventually 🙂
    Actually the only character I didn’t “like” was Paul Rudd’s ex (and I at least liked the performance she gave though)

  2. Paul Rudd is always great. I originally didn’t want to see this, but was glad I did. Great acting by all. It’s funny, during the movie I thought Elizabeth Banks was Parker Posey. Really, really enjoyed this movie.

  3. Great review 🙂 Enjoyed reading it and I bet I’ll enjoy the film as well. I’m a big Paul Rudd fan. Actually, the whole cast. Except Zooey Descganel. I don’t know why but I just can’t like her!

  4. Was going to skip this one but just read your review. lol, I’ll admit, adorable cuddly wuddly Paul Rudd would have been the draw for me, but from the trailers, I did get a “sweet dim witted” vibe. I guess this one has some depth and earnestness to it, so it’s on my to see list.

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