What Does Sundance Darling My Idiot Brother Have Against Gays, Women?
The idea of Paul Rudd playing a bearded, long-haired stoner whose sweet idiocy gets in the way of his good intentions guarantees lots of laughs in Jesse Peretz's My Idiot Brother. Yet while the screenplay delivers lots of funny lines and situations, there's a sour aftertaste of misogyny and borderline-homophobia that made me leave the theater not completely sold on the project. (And yes, I know it was co-written by a women -- Peretz's sister Evgenia, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.)
Rudd stars as Ned, a hippie farmer who gets tossed in the hoosegow for selling pot to a police officer -- a uniformed police officer, mind you. After he gets released, his shrewish girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) makes it clear that he's been replaced by Billy (recent Verge designee T.J. Miller), and even worse, she keeps Ned's beloved dog Willie Nelson.
This sends Ned bouncing back and forth between his three sisters, but his naïveté and inability to keep a secret creates problems for all of them -- he accidentally reveals two infidelities and keeps another sister from being able to publish a scandalous exclusive in Vanity Fair (it must have been easy to get permission to shoot there) about a British aristocrat. What's annoying about the film is that the women are constantly being portrayed as The Problem (Emily Mortimer's character won't let her son learn martial arts, Elizabeth Banks's reporter character wants to climb the magazine-world ladder by being a total bitch, etc.) with Ned accidentally saving everyone's lives by first destroying them.
And whoever decided that Rashida Jones would look like a butch lesbian with man-shirts, dorky glasses, and a ponytail clearly didn't bother to do any research. There's also a scene in which a predatory couple try to entice Ned into bed, and while Ned's lack of interest in having sex with a man is presented inoffensively, the husband of the couple on the make is portrayed as kind of a sleazy shark.
The performances are uniformly excellent (Steve Coogan's arrogant and adulterous documentarian is a smarmy delight), and the pace never lags. I just wish what could have been a charming and humanistic comedy didn't treat so many humans so badly.