MOVIE REVIEW: Our Idiot Brother
Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel
At first glance, Our Idiot Brother appears to be just as shapeless and slow as its titular character, Ned (Paul Rudd), a hippie space cadet caught in a self-imposed orbit heading exactly nowhere. The opening moment is a perfect example why; Ned quickly gets conned into a drug deal by a uniformed police officer, an act of complete stupidity that lives up to the title’s promise of extreme lameness. Yet Our Idiot Brother admires Ned’s nomadic sensibility and sunny obliviousness, turning his character traits into essential keys to understanding director Jesse Peretz’s skewering of social negativity. Through Ned’s earnest trials and tribulations, we see the world as it should be; a place where positive truisms illuminate and can potentially deepen the complexities of modern urban existence. Ned’s world may be pure fantasy, but there’s a lovely sense of virtue and honor in his seemingly clueless virtual reality.
The contradictions of any one human experience ends up resonating when juxtaposed with Ned’s deceptive idiocy. He represents a sublime and genuinely hopeful point of view, antithetical to the more quirky, status quo sludge of modern independent cinema. Ned’s life is not driven by desire or instinct, but a love for mutual communication, and this simple approach appears stupefying to the outside world even when it’s so clearly beautiful and productive. Our Idiot Brother bravely situates Ned next to his disillusioned family members, grown women jilted by the rigours of everyday monotony. Their experiences couldn’t be more different from Ned’s rosy world view, and the uncomfortable proximity between both sides forces them to address the complicated reasons why they’ve fractured as a family, why they’re so damn unhappy.
Since Ned’s overly trusting worldview is structured around complete honesty and trust, his actions occasionally take on Forrest Gumpian qualities, a sort of alien walking amongst a higher class of mental citizen. Still, Ned’s contact with the outside world and his three sisters - workaholic Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), stand-up comedian Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), and stay-at-home mom Liz (Emily Mortimer) – is never treated as an overt joke, but something as purely organic as the vegetables Ned grows at his commune in the Catskills. This pain has taken years to grown, so there is very little sense of time, conflict, or space throughout Our Idiot Brother. Peretz wants to erode the indicators of the hustle and bustle lifestyle and examine Ned’s languishing, even drowsy love affair with listening. As his three sisters shed their blinders to the way things should be, the way things are begins to look a lot more fulfilling.
Outward appearance means a lot in Our Idiot Brother, defined by the judgments and assumptions character’s place on each other. Ned’s full beard and shabby attire, Miranda’s couture sleekness, Natalie’s confused aesthetic, and Liz’s disheveled look are all surface level representations, but all are indicative of a specific and sometimes masochistic relationship with preconceived social structures. Each subtext-driven interaction between Ned and his sister’s complicates these facades, dissolving exterior appearances for a more non-judgmental view of human relationships. The turning point comes during a “Charades” sequence late in the film, where Rudd proves his true acting chops and takes Ned to a dark place even his sisters couldn't imagine. For a split second, Ned breaks into his sister’s negative head-space and reminds them he’s not only fed up with their self-indulgent pity party, but a human being worthy of their respect. That's no idiot talking.
Visit the official site of Our Idiot Brother at www.ouridiotbrother.com