Friday, September 9, 2011

At the Movies: Our Idiot Brother

When I heard that Paul Rudd was starring in a movie called Our Idiot Brother, I knew I had to see it.  I don't usually get all starry-eyed about actors, but Paul Rudd has a kind of irresistible witty-yet-down-to-earth geek-chic appeal, a new facet of which is illuminated in this indie flick.  Part comedy, part family drama, Our Idiot Brother is the story of Ned Rochlin, a guy who gets arrested for selling pot to a uniformed police officer from his organic produce stand.  But don't be fooled by this wacky opener.  This movie's deep.

Thankfully, there are no prison scenes.  The plot just fast forwards to eight months later when Ned has been released.  He returns to his beloved farm and dog, Willie Nelson, only to find that his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has replaced him with an even ditsier dude.  Suddenly homeless, Ned is forced to move in with his mother, who promptly drives him crazy and out into the world again.  So, he takes turns bunking with each of his three sisters, a trio tailor-made for allegory.  Liz (Emily Mortimer) is the stay-at-home mom; Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is the career woman; and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is the bohemian.  Garbed in a ridiculous collection of striped tank tops and colorful button-downs (well, it's actually just one colorful button-down, worn over and over again), Ned dispenses nuggets of truth that snag the delicate fabric of his sisters' not-so-together lives.  At first they just yell at him, hit him with their handbags, and call him, well, an idiot.  Yet they eventually realize that there's wisdom in Ned's revelations and end up sacrificing the very things that define them to become better, happier people. 

Our Idiot Brother isn't laugh-out-loud funny (although it does have some funny parts, especially at the end).  Still, it's subtle and quirky and interesting.  Rudd's Ned is so endearing that I couldn't help but wonder if ignorance is bliss.  Heck, his blind optimism and faith in his fellow man made me want to be a better person.  I have a feeling that Our Idiot Brother is one of those movies that gets a little bit better each time you see it.  Kind of like Anchorman.

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