Our Idiot Brother

Monday, 31 October, 2011

3 and a half stars

The premise

Our Idiot Brother (trailer), a comedy drama, is the latest feature of Jesse Peretz, a US filmmaker and musician, and is the story of a well intentioned though naive and bumbling market gardener, Ned (Paul Rudd), who has the grating propensity to speak out of turn, often causing inconvenience or embarrassment to those around him.

Following a stint in jail, after selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer, Ned finds his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has moved on, and taken up with the slow-witted though affable Billy (T.J. Miller), leaving Ned homeless, and having to rely on the hospitality of his three reluctant sisters so as to keep roof over his head.

The play

While Ned is disappointed at being turned away by Janet, he is especially distraught when she refuses to hand over his dog, named Willie Nelson, to him, even though it is clear the dog prefers Ned’s company. With no where else to stay he calls upon eldest sister Liz (Emily Mortimer), who is married to a documentary maker, Dylan (Steve Coogan).

Dylan gives Ned work as a production assistant, but after Ned uncovers something Dylan has been keeping from Liz, he is sent packing. He then goes to stay with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), an ambitious magazine journalist, but Ned embarrasses her in front of a neighbour, Jeremy (Adam Scott), who she has feelings for.

Youngest sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) offers Ned a spot in her garage, sleeping in a rubber dinghy, but he soon causes a rift between commitment shy Natalie and her girlfriend, Cindy (Rashida Jones), with his ill-timed banter. Ned is subsequently left with no choice but to move back to his mother’s (Shirley Knight) place.

The wrap

Much of the comedy in “Our Idiot Brother” lies in Ned choosing to share what he knows at inopportune moments. While his revelations are unwelcome, they have a way of forcing those he encounters, particularly his sisters – who are in various states of denial in regards to professional or personal matters – to confront their shortcomings.

While well scripted and entertaining, “Our Idiot Brother” is a little thin on the character development of its supporting cast, especially Ned’s sisters, who we don’t get to know all that well. Otherwise Rudd puts in a stand-out performance with his portrayal of the socially immature, Peter Pan like, Ned.

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The Next Three Days

Friday, 4 February, 2011

4 stars

The premise

The Next Three Days (trailer) is written and directed by Canadian Paul Haggis, director of “Crash”, which took out the Best Picture gong at the Academy Awards in 2006. He has also written screenplays for “Million Dollar Baby”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”, plus a couple of Bond movies, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”.

“The Next Three Days”, a remake of 2007 French film “Pour elle” (Anything for Her), sees the lives of John Brennan (Russell Crowe), a community college lecturer, his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and their young son Luke (Ty Simpkins), thrown into turmoil after Lara is wrongly arrested for, and convicted of, murder.

The play

The case against Lara though is watertight. She had a heated argument with her boss before leaving work, whose battered body was later found in the staff car park. Her fingerprints were on the murder weapon, plus her coat was also stained with the victim’s blood. Lara’s hot-headed temperament also did little to aid her cause.

Despite sifting through police records and court evidence, John cannot find any new leads that could exonerate Lara. After three years all legal avenues have been exhausted, and both are resigned to her serving out the 20 year jail sentence. After Lara attempts suicide however, John starts to explore the idea of springing her from prison.

Foregoing perhaps the more obvious approach of tracking down the actual murderer, John enlists the help of serial jail escapist Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), and begins crafting a plan to liberate his wife, and find a safe haven to escape to afterwards. His preparations are meticulous, but can he possibly succeed?

The wrap

To pull off a stunt such as breaking his wife out of prison, John, the mild-mannered teacher, must adopt the mindset of a hardened criminal, and as “The Next Three Days” progresses, it engrossingly charts the transformation as he colludes – or otherwise – with drug dealers and fraudsters to procure new identities, false passports, and cash.

Seldom pausing for breath during its two-plus hour runtime, “The Next Three Days” is liberally peppered with cat and mouse chase action and red herrings, and even toys with the crucial sympathy viewers have for John and Lara, by casting doubt on her innocence, while reserving its far from certain outcome until the final frame.

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W.

Tuesday, 24 November, 2009

4 stars

Director Oliver Stone attempts to climb into the mind of former US commander-in-chief George W. Bush, and show us what was going through the then president’s head.

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