Boston’s Jesse Peretz’s latest film is called Our Idiot Brother. And just like its name hints at, the film is a combination of things. Calling someone an idiot is funny and the film is partially a comedy. The word brother means someone part of a family, a sibling and the film is also partially a family movie about how you deal with the black sheep. Like they say, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.
Ned (Paul Rudd) is an easy going, laid back dude that lives on a plot of land growing some food, making a couple dollars and enjoying his life with his girlfriend and his dog named Willie Nelson. After selling weed to a police officer, Ned goes to jail, but gets released early for good behavior. When he tries to go home, his girlfriend is with someone else and wants nothing to do with him. But Ned has a good mom and three sisters that will surely help him out.
After staying at his mom’s for a bit, Ned needs to get out. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) can’t take him, she’s much too busy with work. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) has too many people staying at her place so Liz (Emily Mortimer) feels almost forced to take him. Liz’s husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have him around their son, but Liz feels obligated.
As part of his probation Ned needs a stable living arrangement and some money coming in. He helps Dylan with his documentary about a Russian ballerina. When that goes south, Miranda asks him to drive her around with a famous socialite to get the inside scoop on her break up. When it looks like her idiot brother screws her over, Miranda can’t deal with him either.
Natalie lets him stay for a little while, but she’s also dealing with her own personal problems. She’s got a big secret she’s keeping from her girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones). All these problems keep popping up and surely Ned has to be the cause of them all. But when Ned faces a problem of his own, they realize they need their brother after all.
Now there is a lot more to the movie than that. Almost every character has more development to it, but everything else is unnecessary to know about in advance. Why? Because every actor is really good in the film and the film has a great combination of laughs and heart.
Let’s start with the basics here. First of all you have the hot Zooey Deschanel and the hot Rashida Jones playing girlfriends. Not much more needs to be said about that. You have the brilliant Steve Coogan showing us a side of him we never wanted to see, that would be the back side and then some. You have stand up comic T. J. Miller playing Billy, a hippie laid back dude that is Ned’s ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and who has great chemistry with Paul Rudd. You have a will they or won’t they relationship with Elizabeth Banks and Adam Scott who plays her neighbor and friend. You have a parole officer who has some great scenes and a little boy that has a lot of fun learning things from his uncle. Add in a Phish concert going type character for Kathryn Hahn and a I drink a few glasses of wine per day Mom and you have a cast of characters that are completely relatable, funny and caring at times.
And oh yes you have the star of the film Paul Rudd. The film is a character based film, but Rudd absolutely shines as usual. Other actors get more hype, make a lot more money, yet it’s Rudd who’s been in some pretty profitable flicks. From Knocked Up to Role Models to I Love You, Man, Rudd continues to prove he’s a bankable commodity. And ask anyone who’s ever worked with him and he’s immediately your best friend. Rudd’s Ned has this utter innocence about him that although the film is called Our Idiot Brother, by the end of the film, you and the other characters realize he’s not the idiot, they are. He’s just there being himself, being good to people and just loving his friends, family, and of course Willie Nelson. Ned is void of all cynicism and jadedness and truly thinks there’s still good in people. You watch him and you think he’s naïve to the world, yet he’s the one truly happy with himself and you can see Rudd has a bit of that in him personally. Even with all the other stars in the film, it’s still Rudd’s film.
Our Idiot Brother is far from a perfect film, but it’s definitely very entertaining. Fans of Rudd will surely like it. If you’ve seen the trailers and thought you wanted to see it, go see it, you will enjoy it. And if you’d like to know more about the film and haven’t read it, check out my interview with director Jesse Peretz about making the film, Rudd and the cast here: http://joltleft.com/movie-in-boston/sitting-down-with-director-jesse-peretz
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