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.