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|The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best
dir-scr Ryan O'Nan
prd Jason Michael Berman, Kwesi Collisson
with Ryan O'Nan, Michael Weston, Arielle Kebbel, Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Melissa Leo, Jake Miller, Charles Chu, Steven Boyer, Charlie Hewson
release UK 20.Jul.12, US Sep.12
Under the bridge: O'Nan and Weston
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Fans of whimsical American indie movies will enjoy this ramshackle road comedy about a couple of losers who only come to life when they play their music. It's charming and cute, but there isn't much to it.
Lovelorn singer-songwriter Alex (O'Nan) is struggling to survive in New York after the departure of his latest musical partner (Ritter). And when he loses his day job, he decides to head back across country to stay with his older brother (McCarthy). Before he leaves, he has an encounter with crazed stalker-fan Jim (Weston), who proposes that they become a double-act and take a cross-country tour to an L.A. battle of the bands. He reluctantly goes along with this, and is even more nervous about letting the rather aggressive Cassidy (Kebbel) join them.
To say that nothing goes to plan is an understatement. We really only see one brief gig, and then the rest are either cancelled or shown in a montage until the climactic sequence when everything falls apart right on schedule for screenplay structure purposes. But as the road trip loses its momentum, so does the film. Actor-filmmaker O'Nan kind of flounders to get the movie back on track in the final act, muttering something about how difficult it is to find that one thing that makes you feel alive.
But that isn't a bad message at all. And the film is full of lovely moments along the way, especially as the "brothers" calm hostile audiences with their charming, resonant music, which combines Alex's gloomy depression with Jim's expertise with toy instruments. And there are plenty of memorable scenes as the film draws on autobiographical-style elements to explore the difficulty of breaking free from a status-obsessed, deeply religious family to do something daring with your life.
The cast is excellent across the board, and O'Nan interacts beautifully with everyone, most notably the young Miller as his perhaps too-bright nephew. So it's a shame that the potent themes don't come more sharply into focus and that the plot doesn't manage to generate much energy. And in the end the story kind of peters out into one of those oh-so-meaningful sequences that really doesn't mean anything at all.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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