Review: Our Idiot Brother

Starring: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, and Zooey Deshanel
Director: Jesse Peretz

With summer winding down, Hollywood begins its transition away from  summer blockbusters and R-rated comedies to Oscar-bait and a slew of bad horror films. Jesse Pertz’s newly released film Our Idiot Brother falls in neither of these camps, yet acts as a warm-hearted dramedy that feels like a nice palate cleanser for what has been, in my humble opinion, one of the worst years in film in recent memory.

Ned (Rudd) is carefree organic farmer from upstate New York who has recently been released from incarceration and is on parole for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer. Kicked out of his former home by his hippie girlfriend and separated from his best friend and dog, Willie Nelson, Ned finds himself forced to move in with his three sisters in the city. Ned’s good-natured, charming, and optimistic outlook mixes with his naivety and trust in the common man to lead to inexorable changes in his and his sisters’ lives.

As a Paul Rudd fan, I was very much looking forward to seeing him in a leading role. While Rudd has occasionally been first bill on a major studio film, it is often as the witty and charming sidekick. On the other hand, this film sees him move away from such buddy comedies as I Love You, Man and Role Models, and, for the first time, serve as the true center piece of a film. Rudd, thankfully, does not disappoint. His role is less charming and more affable than other “Jude Apatow-esque” comedies in which you may be used to seeing him and the chemistry between he and his sisters (Banks, Mortimer, and Deschanel) is heart-warming and real. Moreover, their bonds and struggles are clearly rooted in the realistic problems faced by normal families. Rudd manages to harness these trials and tribulations, all the while portraying a gullibility that allows the the film to keep a light tone without trivializing the serious nature of the situations in which Ned and his sisters find themselves. Rudd finds the appropriate comedic pitch for his character by perfectly straddling the line between sincerity and goofiness.

The director of the film, Jessie Peretz, seemed keenly aware of the type of film he was making and, to my relief, did not overly stylize what is ultimately a simplistic story. There is nothing remarkable or memorable about the the film’s cinematography, but, with that said, I found none of Peretz’ shots or cuts off-putting. The film, which takes place almost entirely in the daytime, is always well lit with a very soft color pallet. Even in a film almost entirely predicated on dialogue, Peretz chooses to keep away from quick cuts and instead relies on wide set shots with multiple characters on screen at once. This forced interaction among the characters helps build the different interpersonal connections which form the foundation for the film.

You won’t be seeing  Our Idiot Brother at the any award shows this year, nor will you likely be seeing it on critics’ top ten lists when all is said and done. The film will not change your life and the low-key comedy wont cause you sides to hurt from laughter. Nevertheless, Rudd and Peretz combine to make a terrific film which is light-hearted, dumb fun and which leaves you simply feeling good in the end.

★★★★☆

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46 thoughts on “Review: Our Idiot Brother

  1. Haha, for us making fun of this movie on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, this is a pretty good review. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. You’re right, Rudd was great in this. But the reason this film, though affable, like Ned, falls so flat and unremarkable is the ending was a bit of a soft-blow, tie up all loose ends sell-out move. It would have been better to leave things loose when following a go-with-the-flow kinda character that was at the center to the story. Oh, and you might want to search for a “the the” in the text. Otherwise very clean copy!

    • I would definitely agree with your point as I would by no means describe the film as challenging. However, if I were forced to write a one sentence review of the film it would be something along the lines of “After the film I left the theatre happy”. And sometimes you need that in cinema

  3. Apparently this movie failed the Bechdel test and makes all the women look psychotic and incompetent. Although that’s what I get for reading feminist blog movie reviews… still, enough to make me think twice.

    • I had not thought of this previously, but I could see how that may be off putting. I would say, as someone who grew up with 3 sisters, the issues faced in this film are real, if not exaggerated. Thanks for the thoughts

    • Thank you very much! The Fresh Pressed was a nice little surprise to wake up to this morning. I don’t think Eric even knows yet.

  4. Hmm…interesting. I’m a huge Paul Rudd fan as well, but the moment that I saw this trailer, I had already resolved not to see it as I feared it would disappoint me on so many levels. Perhaps I shut it down all too soon…

    Thanks for the review and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Review: Our Idiot Brother –in completelyoverrated.com | " Un si long Voyage "

  6. HI there,

    I was excited about this film, but after your review I am not 😦 I guess I am a sucker for feel good, dummy turns out to be the wise man kind of movies ;-).

    I have a huge favor to ask. Do you happen to know any movies that have a reference to a positive image of step father (step family)? One kind blogger suggested The Goodbye Girl, and that’s it.

    Great post!

  7. Thanks fo all the congratulations, it is amazing to be featured on “freshly pressed”. If you like this please leave a comment and take a second to check out the site.

    Also if you are like me and listen to podcasts all day please check out our podcast “That’s Completely Overrated” on our site or in Itunes.

  8. I didn’t want to see this at first – seemed like a silly concept. But I’ll wait till it gets to the discount movie and see it.

  9. Apparently the Director couldn’t decide if he wanted to create a satire, a rom com or a stoner movie. Scripted by an idiot, directed by an idiot. And I like Paul Rudd, but this was one big misfire.

  10. I was apprehensive about seing this, because Dinner for Schmuks was disturbing in an ethical and moralistic way (I found myself hating myself for laughing during it) but I was taken in by this film because it was a good turnaround. He’s not an idiot because he’s stupid, but because the people around him consider him to be so, because they are so busy with their lives of denial, they turn and attack his “unconditional love and simplicity.” I enjoyed your appraisal of this movie as well.

  11. This sounds just fantastic! I haven’t heard of it over here in Australia. I hope it makes it over here. To be honest, I clicked on your link simply for the title – didn’t know it was a film thing.

  12. I couldn’t agee with your review more. It was a simple movie that left me feeling good, but it was by no means a masterpiece. Having said that though, who couldn’t use a feel good flick every now and then?

  13. Hi Guys,
    Nice review. Now i definitely want to go see it. May end up being a blockbuster with all the ‘bad reviews. Who knows………that’s Hollywood for you.
    By the way,congrats on making Freshly Pressed!!!!!!!

    On another note. I have an Autistic son. He’s five. I have written poems as seen through his eyes. Please visit http://jacquirose17.wordpress.com
    I am sure others will be able to relate to it.

    Best Wishes

  14. I went to this wanting to laugh – I didden’t – but I was not dissipointed.
    The movie was a master of all things mellow. Sadly – mellow never seems
    to stand out, no matter how good it is. The women? I felt everone struck
    me as a little high strung when compared to Ned. It enhanced the movie’s
    mild humor. There were some ‘bad’ characters that just so happened to
    be women, but I don’t think it portrayed women in a negitive light.

  15. This is a good review. I, too, like Paul Rudd. He’s usually cast for supporting roles, and he works great in comedies (though I just couldn’t stand Dinner for Schmucks, but that wasn’t his fault). I’ve always felt, though, that he’s been just as good an actor in dramas. Though it didn’t get a lot of attention, years ago, he was in the TV-movie version of The Great Gatsby. He was great–that’s when it first dawned on me that this guy could really act. I haven’t seen Our Idiot Brother, but I’d like to, and it’s good that he’s finally starting to get opportunities for lead roles. I’d like for him to take on some more serious roles–he can definitely pull them off. Keep on writing, man. I enjoyed this piece.

  16. Well it’s gotta be better than ‘How Do You Know.’ I always feel like Rudd doesn’t get enough love from the females–it seems like ever teenage girl who watched ‘Clueless’ should be infatuated with him.

  17. Fantastic review! I have a film review blog that I just started. Maybe you could give me some tips on the reviews I have posted at allihavetosayaboutthat.wordpress.com it would mean a lot! Thanks!

  18. Pingback: Film Bits: Movie Writing From Around The Web. « The Cineaste's Lament.

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