Apparently after an almost full week of partially watching kids shows and then focusing on the world of reality television and action movies (or horror flicks or 80s comedies, depending on the season), I like to turn my attention towards something with a little more substance. A few weeks back it was It’s A Disaster and this week it’s Our Idiot Brother, a film co-written and directed by Jesse Peretz. The film follows the hapless, but well meaning Ned (Paul Rudd) as he tries to make a life for himself after going to jail for selling weed to a uniformed cop. After finding out his girlfriend moved on to another guy, Ned bounces around staying with his mom and interacting with his three sisters played by Eilzabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.
Banks is a cutthroat magazine writer who will do just about anything to get her salacious story. Deshanel’s a terrible stand-up comedian whose dating Rashida Jones, but dealing with the results of a one-time infidelity. And Mortimer’s a somewhat hippie-ish wife and mother of two whose husband Steve Coogan is also being unfaithful.
Essentially, by being the only honest go-between in his family — and also stumbling upon his fair share of supposedly well kept secrets thanks to his drifter nature — Ned breaks down a lot of the family’s barriers, no matter how painful that might be for them. I can’t pretend to understand the complex relationships that go on between siblings, but it’s really interesting how each of the sisters had their own separate lives, keeping their secrets from each other until Ned starts wandering between their guarded camps.
The film tackles these issues with good doses of humor and honesty, two qualities that are perfectly exemplified in Rudd’s portrayal of the character who brings both to a world that wants nothing to do with the latter and doesn’t seem any good at the former. Unfortunately for Ned, his sisters don’t want anything to do with honesty and blame their brother for purposefully or accidentally ruining parts of their lives that were ruined by other people (in two cases, themselves). There’s a really moving part towards the end of the film when he’s together with the family and he blows up at his sisters for being jerks during a game of charades. It sounds a bit silly, but it actually kicked me in the chest. I don’t know about you guys, but if you’re lucky enough to have a person like Ned in your life and they finally blow up at the people who are giving them trouble, it feels good.
“Nobody loves anything as unconditionally as Ned loves,” Banks says at one point in the movie and it’s a pretty powerful moment. It’s a moment that comes after Ned refuses their bale and wants to stay in lock up for an admitted parole violation which gives you an idea of how upset he is with them after absorbing their misdirected anger. This also leads to his sisters moving on from their scapegoating of Ned so they can actually deal with their own problems. I’m a big believer in the soul crushing power of honesty, so it’s nice to see a film that really gets dirty with that concept, even if the truth comes from some strange situations and some broken confidences. My only complaint about the film is that I wish The League‘s Katie Asleton was in it more!