In terms of star power, there’s nothing this year at Sundance that can touch “My Idiot Brother”: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy and Adam Scott.
So when the bus pulled up to the Eccles theater there was a throng of eager beavers laying in wait, begging us as we stepped off, “Does anybody have an extra ticket? I need a ticket!” And the Press & Industry long was more than twice as long as usual.
Based on the anticipation alone, it's no surprise that The Weinstein Company and Ron Burkle announced they were teaming up to acquire the rights to "My Idiot Brother" seemingly before the applause had stopped.
But one of the tricky things about seeing a film at Sundance is that the audience is often rooting so hard for them, that their response can sometimes exceed the reality up on the screen. “My Idiot Brother” feels like just such a film.
Rudd stars a Ned, a bio-dynamic farmer who gets busted selling pot one day, landing in jail for eight months. Upon his release he finds that his girlfriend has moved on and laid claim to his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. After a brief stay at his mother’s house on Long Island, he makes camp at the New York City homes of each of his three sisters. Asked about how he prepared himself to play a stoner doofus, Rudd was, well, distracted.
“I got the first part of the question, but I’m so high I was zoning out on the second, something about how much research did I do? My Method? Surprisingly little,” he offered with a smirk.
According to director and co-writer Peretz, he and Rudd have been fine-tuning this character for years.
“We had many projects that got about 10% into an idea in which he played characters kinda like this. Like, definitely, we always had the vision of him playing some dude with a big beard and long hair. And we really wanted to do something about the complexities of grown sibling life… My sister and I are two of four, we just had a divorce in our family that set a bunch of weird energy in fractures within, and eventually all our siblings came together. So we were sort of trying to dig into that. That’s sort of where it started and then the story just found it’s way.”
Ned is “the most open, un-cynical person” said Peretz. Ned, as such, owes a heavy debt to Chauncey Gardiner, Peter Sellers’ brilliant creation from “Being There.” But where Gardiner came off as a deeply profound man, Ned’s lack of guile causes havoc for all those around him. Because he doesn’t need to lie, he can’t understand why others might, and so he is constantly jeopardizing the stability of everyone who’s close to him.
“My Idiot Brother” is at times hilarious, and there’s a sincere sweetness to much of it, but it feels like a four-episode marathon of a new hit sitcom, rather than a feature length film. It starts out strong enough, with a nice montage that quickly introduces you to all the layers, just offering you rough sketches of who they are.
The performances are as good as you’d expect from such a cast, though having the British Mortimer play an American married to the British Coogan caused a bit of dissonance, and whoever styled Jones' lesbian lawyer went a little too arch.
"My Idiot Brother" does a great job of poking fun at its target audience: self-absorbed New Yorkers who live in lofts with six other people, or worry about their kid’s elementary school interview or what Lady Arabella is up to. But they’re all two-dimensional and their problems ultimately get solved with a shocking ease that makes the ending is so pat and tidy you’d think you were watching a “Night Court” re-run.
"My Idiot Brother" is showing as part of the Sundance Premieres section