Our Idiot Brother
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Nominally a comedy about strained family relations, Our Idiot Brother functions more as a none-too-enlightening guide to the perils of New York City yuppiedom. After being released from jail (for selling weed to a not-undercover cop), and banished by his now-ex-girlfriend from their biodynamic farm, the exceedingly guileless Ned (Paul Rudd) crashes for a while with each of his three sisters: Liz (Emily Mortimer), who has settled down with her documentarian husband, Dylan (Steve Coogan), and their son in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn; Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a vaguely creative type who lives in a Bushwick loft with her more driven partner, Cindy (Rashida Jones), a lawyer with aspirations of relocating to a Brooklyn Heights two-bedroom; and high-strung Vanity Fair staff writer Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a single Manhattanite who at one point dismisses a potential romantic interest (Adam Scott) by observing that "he doesn't even have health insurance." Director Jesse Peretz and co-writers Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall (the director's sister and brother-in-law) make a lot of rather flat jokes about the different forms of snobbery lurking beneath these enviable real-estate-listing particulars—and about the fact that Ned's best friend in the world is a dog named Willie Nelson.
With the main character's arrival at each address, unseen problems come to light. He stumbles upon Dylan in the act with the Belorussian-ballerina subject of his movie, and sets into motion an affair between Natalie and a creepy painter (Hugh Dancy)—and then also winds up breaking the news to Cindy; he later humiliates Miranda in front of a murderers' row of Condé Nast colleagues. Before Ned gets promoted from hapless guy to paragon of love and acceptance for the slapdash final act, Rudd manages several inspired moments of failing to pick up on social cues. Peretz is too busy managing the rest of his large ensemble to make proper use of it, though the moral of the film—hippie sincerity trumps big-city cynicism—does have a disarming throwback quality to it. Never mind that the director ends up ranking lifestyles in a way that benefits Ned's sisters more than Ned himself.
Opens August 26