Saturday, 28 January 2012

Our Idiot Brother (2011)

Our Idiot Brother is an American 2011 comedy-drama film directed by Jesse Peretz and starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer. The script was written by Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall based on Jesse and Evgenia Peretz's story, and tells the story of an idealistic man who intrudes and wreaks havoc in each of his three sisters' lives.

The film was co-produced by Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub. It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was given wide release on 26 August 2011.

The Plot

Ned is a biodynamic farmer living with his girlfriend, Janet. One day, while Ned is selling at a local market, a police officer asks where he can buy cannabis. Ned, skeptical at first, is moved by the officer's professed desperation due to having a stressful week. Feeling sympathetic, Ned gives a rhubarb and a bag with an unclear amount of marijuana to the officer for free. Insisting on paying, the officer coaxes Ned into charging him twenty dollars. Ned is then arrested on a charge of selling drugs.

Ned has three sisters. Miranda is a journalist for Vanity Fair trying to get her first major article published. Though she has trouble finding a man to keep her interest, she and a neighbor, Jeremy have hidden feelings for each other, but would rather be good friends (Jeremy is even willing to interrupt a sexual encounter in order to help Miranda with a maintenance problem). Natalie is a young, independent, bisexual hipster living with her girlfriend, Cindy and 5 other roommates, suggesting a very communal type apartment. Her love for Cindy conflicts with her fear of commitment, which she hides even around Cindy. Liz, the oldest, is married to Dylan, a documentary filmmaker. Their marriage is failing as Dylan shows no sexual interest in Liz. They also have strict control over their son River, which leaves him unhappy and unable to express himself.

When Ned is released from prison early due to his model behavior, he returns home to his girl and his dog ("Willie Nelson"). He finds that she is living with Billy. Disappointed but not angry, Ned desires to continue working at the farm, but Janet will not let him. With nowhere else to go, he asks Billy for a ride into town - after saying goodbye to the dog (whom Janet refuses to let him keep). During the ride, Billy tells Ned that if he can scrape together $1000 (2 months rent), Janet might let him stay in the goat barn for rent on the farm. Ned makes this his goal and heads to his mother's house for a family dinner.

At dinner, the family is happy to see Ned but not so happy to be around each other. They are barely into dinner when all the girls decide to leave, which disappoints Ned, who is excited to see everyone. Before leaving, Liz tells Ned that her door is always open to him. That night, Ned's mom tells him she's glad he's home and that the next day, they will go into town together. A few days later, Ned meets with his parole officer, Omar, who tells Ned that he must report to his office every 3 weeks. When Omar asks Ned a few questions on how he is avoiding trouble, Ned struggles to come up with an answer, electing to think more on it for next time. This gives Ned the impression that he and Omar have a therapy-like relationship.

While talking to Miranda on the phone, Liz is surprised to see Ned randomly show up on her doorstep, asking if he can stay with her. He is put in River's room where there is a bunk bed and told that he must help around the house. For money, Ned will work with Dylan on his newest documentary about a Russian ballerina named Tatiana. Ned takes River to his dance lesson the next day, but sees River looking into the room of boys doing karate and sighing. That night, Ned shows River The Pink Panther movie to cheer him up. River says that he has never seen it because his parents don't want him to be violent. Ned decides to play karate with River, but is yelled at by Dylan for making noise and taking the computer in River's room. The next day, Ned is with Dylan and talks to Tatiana, who shows him some ballet stretches. Dylan becomes jealous and annoyed, especially after Ned informs him that he told Tatiana that Dylan was married.

The next day, Miranda reluctantly asks Ned to chauffeur while she interviews an important client, Lady Arabella. Miranda hopes to pry into her family and recent scandalous break-up, but is dismayed to learn of an agreement with her lawyer to only ask about charity work. Miranda tries to pretend Ned isn't there, but his friendliness charms Arabella, who takes a liking to Ned (even sitting up front and sharing a drink with him). That night, Ned goes with Natalie to a self-help meeting with Natalie's artist friend, Christian. Christian is attracted to Natalie but is dissuaded by her lesbian relationship until Ned informs him that she is bisexual and likes guys too. When the session moves into a sauna-type room, Ned is dehydrated and sent to the hospital. Christian and Natalie take a cab home and end up having sex. The next day, Natalie realizes her mistake and is worried about Cindy.

Ned goes back to working with Dylan, but is told to watch the car while Dylan conducts a private interview with Tatiana. Hours go by and Ned is approached by a police officer. At first scared at getting in trouble (for nothing), Ned is simply informed that the car must be moved out of a tow zone. He runs upstairs to get the keys from Dylan, whom he discovered with Tatiana as they were filming an unnecessary nude scene. Dylan returns to the car and tells Ned the only reason he was naked was to make Tatiana feel more comfortable while being naked. Ned believes this and they head home. The next night, Ned goes with Miranda to Arabella's benefit dinner, and stays behind to have a conversation with Arabella. Although humored by Ned's story of his incarceration, she is touched when Ned explains that his philosophy on life is to trust people and give them the chance to rise up and do the right thing. She then explains the gossipy part of her life (that Miranda had hoped to discover) to Ned, who listens with interest.

Dylan expresses to Liz his desire to kick Ned out, but she refuses as he is family. However, Ned accidentally breaks River's fingers by catching them in a door hinge while playing hide-and-seek a few days before River's big interview for enrollment at a prestigious school. Despite his parents trying to guide his answers, River tells the interviewer that he enjoys martial arts, which shocks his parents. When Liz asks how he learned martial arts, River explains that Ned taught him. The interviewer asks about Ned, to which River explains that he just got out of jail for selling drugs to a policeman. Liz then kicks Ned out for ruining River's chance at getting into the school (although the interviewer seemed delighted with how active and passionate River is). Ned apologizes, stating he was only trying to help River be himself and that little boys play by fighting, and that it doesn't mean he will be violent as an adult (more specifically, a "frat boy rapist"). Liz gives Ned money and sends him to Miranda.

Miranda fronts Ned the remaining cash he needs to rent out the goat barn and is about to send him there when he accidentally mentions Dylan's nude interview with Tatiana. Miranda is shocked and concludes that Dylan is having an affair and goes to call Natalie when Jeremy arrives and hits it off with Ned due to a common love for sci-fi. When Natalie answers, Ned prepares to leave and mentions a personal detail about Arabella that makes Miranda realize that Ned has the info she needs. She forces Ned to tell her the details before she goes, which Ned is heartbroken to do since he was trusted. Ned returns to the farm with money but is not allowed to rent the barn. Billy apologizes for forgetting to see if it was cool first. Ned leaves again with a sad goodbye to Willie Nelson.

Ned is invited to a party at Natalie's apartment where he asks Cindy, who is a lawyer, about ways to get custody of his dog. Cindy explains that although he has a strong case, litigation would just take time and money. She suggests as an alternative that they work together to steal the dog from Janet. At the party Ned is approached by a young couple who wish to have a group sex encounter with him. Ned begins to have sex with the girl but apologizes when the guy begins to kiss him and kisses the guy on the cheek instead. He explains it's just a little too weird for him. At lunch the next day, Jeremy explains to Ned that he is not homophobic just because he is straight and they decide to find Ned a girl. They spot a girl who is very professional, like Miranda, to which Ned suggests that Jeremy and Miranda obviously love each other. Jeremy explains that it is platonic for him and that Miranda is too bossy for him, though admitting she is beautiful. Ned casually mentions the idea to Miranda, who also denies wanting that. Miranda is hurt to learn what Jeremy had to say about the idea and tells Ned her thoughts on Jeremy. This leads to Jeremy and Miranda, who are moving furniture into her apartment, to bicker until Ned makes things worse by skewing the exact words used by both parties. Jeremy storms out and tries to give Ned a copy of Miranda's article, which Miranda snatches away. Ned goes to see Natalie perform stand-up that night, but is worried when Natalie runs off stage at Christian's arrival. He finds her puking and gets her to admit that she cheated and is now pregnant. He tells her to just be honest with Cindy.

The family has dinner again a few days later, resulting in Ned and Cindy playing on a trampoline with River while the sisters stay inside talking. Liz mentions Dylan's distantness which provokes Miranda and Natalie to tell her about the affair. Distraught, Liz blames Ned but is scolded by Miranda for doing so. Ned and Cindy decide that next week, when Janet goes to a Dixie Chicks concert, they will have the opportunity to steal Willie Nelson. Inside, Miranda and Natalie try to help Liz feel better by saying they hate Dylan and that she is better off. Miranda then asks Liz why she no longer does herself up, which angers Liz into yelling that Miranda and Natalie don't understand. Natalie tries to say that her friends used to lust after Liz and that she should look "at least semi-fuckable every now and then." Liz defends herself by saying that Natalie is the one who is promiscuous and sexual, which Natalie worriedly thinks means they're suggesting she cheated. Natalie storms out with Cindy and Liz leaves crying. Ned's mom is happy to have him back, explaining that the girls are too caught up on themselves. Liz confronts Dylan about the affair, who scolds her evasively and storms out of the house.

Miranda takes Ned into work the next day to vouch for the validity of his statements. Ned reads the article and is shocked to see how personal Miranda made it. He refuses to admit that it was all true (even though it was) in order to spare Arabella the embarrassment. However, this means Miranda's article will not get published and she is embarrassed in front of her editor. She kicks Ned out and he stays with Natalie, who lies about having told Cindy about the cheating. The next morning, Cindy drives with Ned to the farm to steal his dog back. They are shocked to see Janet and Billy are home and not at the concert. All is going well until Ned brings up Natalie's infidelity. Cindy angrily calls Natalie from inside the house, which alerts Janet to their presence. Ned tries one last time to persuade Janet while Cindy is heard yelling at Natalie. Janet refuses and Cindy drives away, stranding Ned at the farm.

Ned goes to the parole officer the next day for his checkup. Thinking he can confess his feelings and thoughts, Ned tells Omar that the stress of his life was getting to him and he smoked marijuana with a neighbor. Omar, who has grown to like Ned, tells Ned not to tell him that because now he must report Ned. Ned goes home to family dinner and gets dirty looks from all his sisters, who blame him for all the trouble in their lives. While playing charades, the girls guess their answers before anyone has the fun of acting them out, infuriating Ned, who is on edge due to potentially having to return to jail. He asks them to play fair, but they merely laugh at him. Ned finally loses his temper and yells at them for their selfishness and for bringing everyone else down. The outburst scares the girls who immediately regret their actions. Omar, with teary eyes from crying at having to arrest Ned, arrives with a police officer. Miranda posts Ned's bail, but Ned refuses to sign his release form, opting to stay in prison rather than be with the girls. They devise a plan to get Willie Nelson from Janet in order to get him to leave. They drive to Janet and ask for Willie Nelson. Janet refuses, saying she loves the dog. Miranda yells and says that no one could love anything as unconditionally as Ned loves everything and that he deserves the dog. Despite her refusal, Billy comes out of the house carrying Willie Nelson, tired of Janet refusing to give Ned his dog. They take Willie Nelson to the prison where he is reunited with Ned.

A few weeks later, Ned is out to lunch with his sisters. Natalie receives a call from Cindy, who wants to start over and go with Natalie to her gynecologist appointments. Miranda has patched things up and started a relationship with Jeremy. Liz has decided to start dating again and has started letting River be himself, even enrolling him in a karate class. Ned decides it is time for him to go back to his life the way he likes it, out of the city and in a quiet area. The girls are sad to see him go, but wish him the best. Later on, Ned and Billy have opened up a small homemade candle shop together and seem to do well enough. One day Ned cannot find Willie Nelson, and begins running through town looking for him. He finds Willie playing with another dog in a park area who has also run away from her owner. The owner comes up and Ned finds he has a lot in common with the woman. When he asks her dog's name, the owner replies "Dolly Parton" to which Ned says his dog is "Willie Nelson" and smiles.


Our Idiot Brother has received generally positive critical reception following its release, garnering 68% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.6/10 on IMDb and 60/100 on Metacritic.

The Cast

Paul Rudd as Ned Rochlin
Elizabeth Banks as Miranda Rochlin
Zooey Deschanel as Natalie Rochlin
Emily Mortimer as Liz Rochlin
Kathryn Hahn as Janet
Steve Coogan as Dylan
Hugh Dancy as Christian
Rashida Jones as Cindy
Shirley Knight as Ilene Rochlin
T. J. Miller as Billy
Adam Scott as Jeremy
Janet Montgomery as Lady Arabella
Matthew Mindler as River
Sterling K. Brown as Omar
James Biberi as Gus
Katie Aselton as Amy

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