Saturday, August 27, 2011

Love: Our Idiot Brother

I've been starting to feel old lately. It's not a bad thing but there are times when I look back and realize, wow, we've come a long way haven't we old girl? Watching Our Idiot Brother was one of those times.
Not bothering to figure out anything about the movie beforehand, I expected the usual Judd Apatowian (he has nothing to do with this film) man-child comedy. What I got instead was the aging hipster equivalent of Nora Ephron. Like my parents who experienced Diane Keaton in the Woody Allen days when she was young and "alternative," Our Idiot Brother made me realize how they must feel now as they laugh and relate to her in 50's and 60's playing beside the equally aged Jack Nicholson in something like As Good As It Gets.
Our Idiot Brother is a nice, sweet movie. It's not jam packed with laughs (but it is funny), nor are its laughs all that close to the absurd or raunchy. Like the whitewashed million dollar kitchens of a Diane Lane/Richard Gere movie, it too is full of idealized landscapes, this time of the hipster generation, from the organic farm that Ned works on in upper state New York to the Brooklyn brownstones where Liz and Dylan raise their pre-school prodigy, and finally the industrial brick loft where lesbian couple Nat and Cindy reside with about 20 other roommates from exotic locales like the Ukraine.
The conflict is also pulled straight from the likes of the upper-crust rom com/dramedy, centered around Ned (Paul Rudd), a darling, Dude-like organic farmer who's arrested after selling a cop some pot.  Sweetheart Ned is surrounded by a group selfish New York archetypes for sisters. Liz (Emily Mortimer) and Dylan (Steve Coogan) struggle to get their son into an upper level pre-school only to realize that all this focus on playing the shinai and refusing to let him watch movies was cutting his childhood short. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a struggling yet still high profile reporter for a Vogue-like magazine wrestles with her integrity as she uses Ned to get the facts on a story she shouldn't be printing, while Nat (Zooey Deschanel) acts in the wandering lost way that all of Deschanel's characters do as she interacts with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones). As you can imagine, the charming Ned is abused and mistreated, often comically, until the sisters realize just how important he and his values are to them. 
Reading the above makes it seem like this movie is a boring Hollywood affair which, I suppose it is. But underneath it all, Rudd musters enough heart to make you care up against the backdrop of Deschanel, Jones, Banks, and Mortimer who all know how to make even the most wooden of characters seem alive, if only briefly. I once asked my Dad why he and my Mom bothered with things like It's Complicated, and he told me that sometimes, it's nice to see people your own age. Maybe I'm falling into that same trap, because even though there's a lot of trite bullshit to be found in Our Idiot Brother, I found myself enjoying the pleasantness of it all anyway.
~M


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