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 After he gets released, his shrewish girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) makes it clear that he's been replaced by Billy (recent Verge designee T.J. Miller), and even worse, she keeps Ned's beloved dog Willie Nelson.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.



Comments

  • Yabby says:

    When did Elizabeth Banks turn into Parker Posey?

  • Martini Shark says:

    "You know how I knew you were gay? When you got offended by that movie we saw at Sundance."

  • Esther Lansing says:

    As a woman i did not see the portrayal of women as a problem. In fact I was pleased for once to see the funny ladies have roles that weren't the equivalent of door knobs in a movie. Miranda is a career oriented character but if she were a male you wouldn't seem to have any problem with that portrayal. Also Emily Mortimer's character is living her husbands life so when the film concludes and he is out of the picture, she is able to live her own life which comes across as a happy ending to me.
    Also I think the lesbian characters didn't come across offensively. They are seen as being meant for each other in my opinion. If their is a reference to Rashida's wardrobe i took it as she's a hipster, not that all lesbians dress that way.

  • John R. says:

    Nobody will be able to tell me that's not Parker Posey pictured above.
    And, hey, can't we just take it for a given that a male in a couple trying to lure another person (male or female) into bed is kinda possibly sleazy? I don't understand what you are trying to persuade me with here.

  • Sean says:

    Everyone will always cry foul if it doesn't suit exactly what they want to see. Maybe it's because women are "the problem"? That 9/10 uptight, whiny, bitchy people I meet are women?
    If it were anywhere near as misogynistic as this reviewer claims, Katheryn Heigl would've been all up in arms over it already. Settle down, it's just a movie. Don't like what it says? Don't watch. It's like the guy that freaked out on The Woman, but on a much lesser scale obviously. No one forced you to watch My Idiot Brother. So quit complaining while the rest of us that actually want to see it don't get to .

  • Evan says:

    GET OVER IT!!

  • T-Rex says:

    Dear Sean and Evan,
    You have completely missed the point of articles like this, which are opinion pieces about movies on a movie blog. I'll never understand people who think anyone should just suck it up about prejudice in entertainment, simply because it's entertainment. And "If you don't like it, don't watch" is a ridiculous suggestion negating the whole point of criticizing movies, which is a big part of this site.

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