Our Idiot Brother

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

1 April

 

April Fool’s Day

In many countries, today is April Fool’s Day. It’s unclear where this day – nowadays often dedicated to the playing of practical jokes – has its origin, though there was a medieval Feast of Fools (28 December) and a Roman festival of Hilaria (25 March). It is also possible that the old custom of celebrating the new year on 25 March (the weeklong holiday would end on 1 April) is involved somehow. Another theory sees Persia as the source of April Fool’s Day, the Sizdah Bedar tradition of going out and having fun on 1 April going back as far as 536BC.

 

 

 

Our Idiot Brother (2011, dir: Jesse Peretz)

The idea that there is something about the fool, the idiot, that we can all learn from, is the motivating idea behind a film that looks for all the world like it was expected to do great things. It didn’t, but that doesn’t make Paul Rudd’s performance any less enjoyable. Rudd plays Ned, the amiable hippie goof who is so dumb he’ll sell marijuana to a uniformed cop, because the cop asked him nicely. Ned finds it hard to operate in this world of half-truths, nods and winks. He is totally gullible, without guile. He’s a lovely guy. But he’s clearly a liability, which is why his parole officer speaks to him so slowly – anyone who sells grass to someone they know is a cop must be a fool, right? Not entirely. There’s a Being There quality to director Jesse Peretz’s film and there’s a Chauncey Gardner (Ned is indeed an organic smallholder) aspect to Rudd’s Ned, though Peter Sellers’s last film clearly isn’t being used as a complete blueprint. Nor is Ned’s wide-eyed naivety used as a satirical light to expose the bullshit of others. This is a comedy about human foibles not villainy and as Ned bumbles around in the lives of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer) and the men in their lives (Adam Scott, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy) his honest intentions, inability to remember what the lie was that he’s meant to be telling and social gaucheness have the sort of effect that actually only happens in films. Yes, that’s a good cast, which is why it seems likely that better things were expected. And they’re all competent enough to handle the improvisational approach that Peretz has settled on. And there are jokes, often at the expense of the men (Coogan is a particularly enjoyable rotter), as Rudd’s Ned makes a mess of everything he touches, and in doing so makes everything actually quite a lot better.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Rudd’s warm and wonderful performance
  • Great ensemble performances by a talented cast
  • Shirley Knight as the materfamilias
  • There’s a dog in it called Willie Nelson

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Our Idiot Brother – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Our Idiot Brother”

  1. A hilarious movie written for Paul Rudd: what more could we want?

    Rudd plays Ned, a stoner who has frizzled his neurons to the point that he has lost any ability to detect or dish out B.S. The poster child for what it means to be ingenuous, Ned is a trusting, playful, adorable stray puppy who isn't quite housebroken. So you-know-what hits the fan when his three sisters serially take him in after his release from jail. He's nothing but tsuris. It's no wonder that his most enduring relationship is with his dog, Willie Nelson.

    Thanks to Rudd's everyman persona and the genial obliviousness he brings to Ned, you can't help but feel empathy. As with a suspense film where the audience knows what's going to happen but the characters are still in the dark, you want to yell out to warn Ned before he screws up again. His perfect comic timing and the made-to-order script make sure you get the most laughs from his predicament. Luckily, there's more to him than just bad luck. He's also an endearing white angel on the shoulders of his sisters, helping them fight their devils as he becomes an unwitting catalyst for change.

    The movie's impressively talented and good-looking cast includes Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Elizabeth Banks (looking a lot like Parker Posey) as sisters. What's more, Rashinda Jones and Hugh Dancy add to the already high eye-candy quotient. Steve Coogan plays Ned's deliciously distasteful brother-in-law in his inimitable unpleasant-guy way.

    The film is smartly directed by Jesse Peretz from a story he developed with his sister, Evgenia Peretz. I saw this at the Sundance screening in Brookline, Massachusetts, where director Peretz said they wrote it for Rudd, whom he clearly enjoys working with, and who wouldn't? Even though they stuck to the script, Rudd improvised at least two of the movie's funniest bits.

    A fun ride throughout, the film only has a couple of weak spots. One scene has Ned comfortably telling a white lie, something so out of character it was jolting to the point of distraction. The ending could use some reshaping, and perhaps it might get some before general release. But even as is, this movie is about as charming and hilarious as Rudd can be, which is quite sizable.

  2. What a wonderful movie. Paul Rudd is terrific. He is truly the star. His performance is outstanding. The idiot is not Paul's character, Ned. He is a good-natured person who is willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Rather, the idiots are his three pretentious sisters who treat Ned like a child, misinterpreting his honesty for immaturity. Ned maintains his integrity, which is in sharp contrast to the phoniness that he encounters in others. Misunderstandings occur as Ned forces his sisters to confront their own lies. Ned is perceived as the family problem when in fact he is the solution, except no one knows it, at first. Several scenes are amusing as Ned's good nature and candid outlook produces some awkward situations. This movie succeeds because it tells a story, does so with humor, and keeps the audience engaged.

  3. As has been stated many times already, Ned (Paul Rudd) is not an idiot. Well, he kind of is. He lacks understanding of normal social protocol, and not in a genius kind-of-way, but as a hippie. Prone to frequent breakdowns in communication, one such instance lands him in jail. When he's out, he's off to live with his family. His sisters all treat him like he's an idiot. Hence, the title, "Our Idiot Brother."

    Ned is a good and caring guy. His sisters are completely different and completely different from each other — one is even British. In their own way, they are all selfish, demanding and insensitive people. But don't worry, Ned is our hero and protagonist. If you are currently sighing in relief, I understand. A career spanning two decades with 30-plus movie credits, and we've only seen Paul Rudd in the lead role a handful of times.

    Rudd has infused Ned with all the charm, likability and overall appeal that we have come to expect from him. Surprisingly, the less likable actresses playing the three unlikable sisters were at least able to add some humour to their characters. The three supporting actors probably could have stolen the show if they were given more time: Steve Coogan as the husband with a penchant for exhibitionism; Hugh Dancy as a creepy artist turned cultist; and Adam Scott as Rudd's long lost brother — not literally, he just has the same presence.

    "Our Idiot Brother" is a comedy, one of those heart-warming comedies, where all of the characters start coming around to see the value of having Ned in their life. It takes them longer than us to realize his positive aspects because most of them are not fully-developed characters, especially the mother, I'm not sure what the point of her was.

    Unfortunately, it's not a particularly funny comedy, but it is a likable one. A few ill-fated groin jokes would have been better off in a different movie, and a few jokes lost their humour after they appeared in the trailer, and after that there's only a few left to discover. It is funny, but not as funny as you would expect a comedy to be. But did I mention likable? Because that's what "Our Idiot Brother" is: sweet, charming and overall appealing.

  4. Our Idiot Brother is probably the most harmless movie to come out this year, a very light and entertaining piece with a remarkably warm heart. At first I was frustrated by how thinly written the supporting characters were and how the sisters are some of the worst people put on film, but ultimately it's a necessary evil to get the film where it needs to go. It's a nice little study on the cynicism and selfishness of today's culture and how someone with a good heart and a sunny disposition just gets taken advantage of and abused for being decent.

    There are a lot of funny moments throughout, most of them coming from Paul Rudd who plays a unique character for him (the rest of the actors were cast exactly in their wheelhouse) and is really just charming and kind the whole time. You really believe him in this role and Ned could have come off as too dim or annoyingly sweet, but Rudd makes him so likable and I just wanted to give him a big hug and hang out with him the whole time. Sure, there are plenty of flaws with how the characters were written, but in the end that's insignificant and just not what the film is about. It's an easy and touching film that sheds a light on how awful the majority has become, just like it's main character. Such a relaxed and easy viewing.

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