OUR IDIOT BROTHER (Jesse Peretz)
In almost every family, there's that one member everybody is annoyed with. Such is the premise of Jesse Peretz' OUR IDIOT BROTHER, with Paul Rudd playing Ned, the titular 'idiot' brother. Ned is not an idiot per se (but then again, what really defines idiocy?), and the reason he is tagged as one is because of his infectious optimism and generosity. In a family of women, with three sisters and her mom, Ned stands out separated, yet her mom Ilene (Shirley Knight) loves him of all her children.
The sisters' contempt for Ned is obvious to everyone but Ned, and this is quite funny especially the way each of them lie in front of him out of familial duty. Paul Rudd is exceedingly effective as Ned, where we see a human stripped down of all ego and pride, and yet he is mocked and ostracized for his smallness and shortcomings.
The actresses playing Ned's sisters are all charming and funny, and surprisingly dynamic; each actress gives their unique portrayal of a unique sister. Emily Mortimer is the eldest, Liz who is in a loveless marriage, and whose husband (a very disgusting, but in a good way turn by Steve Coogan) is cheating on her is the conservative one; Elizabeth Banks is the career woman, Miranda (could it be inspired by the SEX AND THE CITY character?) who wants to prove her professional worth, and; the most caring, liberal, and likely to understand and nurture Ned is Natalie (played by Zooey Deschanel), the bisexual sister living with an attorney named Cindy (Rashida Jones).
The film follows Ned as he spends time at the homes of each of her sisters, wrecking their comfort zones but making them realize in the end some great truths about their lives. This is set in motion by Ned's incarceration because of selling weed to a police officer, which in turn has him kicked out by his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) out of their farm abode, and holding his beloved dog "Willie Nelson" hostage.
The custody of the dog mirrors that of a human child where in a normal setting, a man and woman would fight over who gets to keep the kid. It is actually fun seeing the characters fight over a dog as if it were a child, and Ned's love for Willie Nelson is so unconditional and inspiring the film just cannot end without this conflict being resolved.
Throughout the film, songs by Willie Nelson (the musician) play in the background.
Amidst the drama, the story is peppered with inspired lunacy, especially the ending scene where Ned and Billy (T.J. Miller, whom I best recall as Ranger Jones in YOGI BEAR), Janet's new boyfriend turned ex-boyfriend started a candle-making business (I won't spoil the punch line for you here, you have to watch the movie for yourself).
In closing, OUR IDIOT BROTHER serves us a fresh take on humor by hitting close to home-our families, inviting us to examine our relationships with our brothers, sisters, mothers, sons, and daughters, and finding joy in every little aspect of our existence. Idiocy isn't always a letdown, as this film proves. Then again, Ned isn't an idiot, he just simply looks like one.