Review by Tom Gilchrist
Stars Ryan O’Nan, Michael Weston, Arielle Kebel, Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Melissa Leo, Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Philip Ettinger, Steven Boyer
Written by Ryan O’Nan
Certification UK 15 | US R
Runtime 97 minutes
Directed by Ryan O’Nan
Alex (O’Nan) is a broken man. Recently dumped by his girlfriend (via hand-written letter no less, who writes letters in 2012?), kicked out of his band for not having undergone an exorcism and fired from his job as an estate agent for launching the water cooler bottle at a colleague, things can’t seem to get any worse for our red-eyed, unshaven and hugely depressed hero. Luckily, he meets a musical revolutionary in the shape of Jim (Weston) who uses children’s toys as musical instruments, he invites him to join forces and create a band with which to go on a tour across America to showcase the aforementioned newly formed band, The Brooklyn Brothers. Along the way they bump into feisty, cool girl cassidy (Kebbel) who decides to tag along and work as their manager. Of course as the duo perform gigs at venues ranging from mostly empty bars to fraternity houses, the road-trip proves to be anything but smooth.
Despite having a title which I get wrong every time I say it to somebody, I thoroughly enjoyed Brooklyn Brothers. The plot may be a tad formulaic and the characters are not exactly original, but it had enough charm and wit to overcome those potential hurdles. Perhaps most importantly, for a film in which music is at its very core, the songs are actually pretty decent. O’Nan wrote and performed each song himself and he knows his way around an acoustic guitar and can hold a tune, at two points in the film the duo’s music is described as “Shins meets Seasame Street” and “a 6-year old David Bowie”.
O’Nan and Weston are both very likeable characters, bouncing off each other in an amusing and believable way, though while I liked Arielle Kebbel she didn’t really have much to do other than be a bit feisty and sexy. Able support is provided by Andrew McCarthy, Melissa Leo and Jason Ritter however none of them is really given a great deal to do. McCarthy gets the most screentime as Alex’s mega-religious brother Brian and their sub-plot revisits some old family issues, as well as Brian’s slightly socially awkward son.
The film is written and directed by O’Nan and on both counts he does a good job, the script is good, with believable dialogue and not to many over-the-top sentimental or cliched moments, which was always a danger given the film follows the road-trip movie formula pretty strictly. The jokes and one-liners are effective and funny, ranging from some Flight of the Conchord style zaniness to some less amusing, slightly smutty gags.
This is film that sticks to a well trodden path and does little to really attempt to stand out, however the quality of the acting, script and soundtrack help to elevate it above the pack. Be warned though.if you are not a fan of mildly depressing, acoustic Indie music, this might not be the film for you. But with interesting characters and enough laughs to balance out the air of depression that reeks from the two leads, you might just miss out on an enjoyable little trip across America.