Our Idiot Brother

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

1 April

April Fool’s Day

In many countries, today is April Fool’s Day. It’s unclear where this day – nowadays often dedicated to the playing of practical jokes – has its origin, though there was a medieval Feast of Fools (28 December) and a Roman festival of Hilaria (25 March).
It is also possible that the old custom of celebrating the new year on 25 March (the weeklong holiday would end on 1 April) is involved somehow. Another theory sees Persia as the source of April Fool’s Day, the Sizdah Bedar tradition of going out and having fun on 1 April going back as far as 536BC.

Our Idiot Brother (2011, dir: Jesse Peretz)

The idea that there is something about the fool, the idiot, that we can all learn from is the motivating idea behind a film that looks for all the world like it was expected to do great things. It didn’t, but that doesn’t make Paul Rudd’s performance any less enjoyable.

Rudd plays Ned, the amiable hippie goof who is so dumb he’ll sell marijuana to a uniformed cop, because the cop asked him nicely. Ned finds it hard to operate in this world of half-truths, nods and winks. He is totally gullible, without guile. He’s a lovely guy. But he’s clearly a liability, which is why his parole officer speaks to him so slowly – anyone who sells grass to someone they know is a cop must be a fool, right?

Not entirely. There’s a Being There quality to director Jesse Peretz’s film and there’s a Chauncey Gardner (Ned is indeed an organic smallholder) aspect to Rudd’s Ned, though Peter Sellers’s last film clearly isn’t being used as a complete blueprint. Nor is Ned’s wide-eyed naivety used as a satirical light to expose the bullshit of others. This is a comedy about human foibles not villainy and as Ned bumbles around in the lives of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer) and the men in their lives (Adam Scott, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy) his honest intentions, inability to remember what the lie was that he’s meant to be telling and social gaucheness have the sort of effect that actually only happens in films.

Yes, that’s a good cast, which is why it seems likely that better things were expected. And they’re all capable of handling the improvisational approach that Peretz has settled on. And there are jokes, often at the expense of the men (Coogan is a particularly enjoyable rotter), as Rudd’s Ned makes a mess of everything he touches, and in doing so makes everything actually quite a lot better.

Why Watch?

  • Rudd’s warm and wonderful performance
  • Great ensemble performances by a talented cast
  • Shirley Knight as the materfamilias
  • There’s a dog in it called Willie Nelson

© Steve Morrissey 2014

Our Idiot Brother – at Amazon

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