The following review is spoiler free and is meant to be read BEFORE seeing the movie, as opposed to the upcoming podcast episode, which will contain spoilers and an in-depth discussion of this movie
Our Idiot Brother concerns Ned, a “biodynamic” farmer who is sent to prison for selling marijuana to a police officer (who was in uniform at the time). Upon his release, he finds his girlfriend of three years has found another man and has kicked Ned to the curb, yet she refuses to give up Ned’s dog, Willie Nelson. This sets in motion a movie with no plot. Essentially, Ned, now homeless, imposes on his mother and three siblings, and ends up affecting their lives greatly.
Were Our Idiot Brother a book or a report, its thesis would be Ned’s statement to the character played by Janet Montgomery, Lady Arabella: people are inherently good (that is an oversimplification but I can’t remember the exact wording). Ned’s optimism and naïveté lead to many divulged secrets and unplanned confrontations. His good-naturedness and good intentions make him easy to love even as he upends the lives of his three sisters. Their problems are their own of course, but they were perfectly happy letting these problems simmer before Ned came along.
Between Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, and the always amazing Emily Mortimer, Our Idiot Brother is an actor’s showcase. There is not a single sub-par performance to be seen. Even the supporting cast is stupendous! Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, Sterling K. Brown, and T.J. Miller (who steals ever single scene he is in) are all giving A+ performances with their small amount of time on screen. The actors are able to do so well because of their talent, of course, but also because the writing gives them characters to sink their teeth into. Some of them don’t have much, such as Adam Scott’s Jeremy, but that doesn’t give the impression that their characters are one-dimensional; it merely means that we don’t get much time with them. Adam Scott manages to give his character unwritten depth by his performance. And the same goes for the other actors with not too much time on screen. All of the characters ring true.
This movie is so sincere, honest, and straightforward that it’s hard to believe it isn’t as dark as it could have been. There are some themes here that could have been played much darker but Ned’s optimism is just so infectious that it’s hard to be brought down. He believes in the goodness of people and therefor so do we.
The sad thing about Our Idiot Brother is that it was marketed as a comedy. It is quite clearly a light drama, starring actors who are commonly found in straight comedies, and it has its comedic diversions, but it is a drama at its core. It is unpretentious, delightful, and is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.