Tag Archives: Romantic Comedy

“My Blind Brother” Review: A Shrewd Romantic Comedy at Tribeca

Helen Highly Recommends “My Blind Brother” as One of the Best of Tribeca 2016

Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate in "My Blind Brother," shown at Tribeca 2016
Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate in “My Blind Brother,” shown at Tribeca 2016

Droll “My Blind Brother” Premiered at SXSW and Cracks Up Tribeca 2016


“I’m a superficial narcissist”
“I’m lazy and judgmental.”

This is how the two romantic leads in the new romantic comedy, “My Blind Brother,” introduce themselves to each other, and I fell in love with them both immediately.

HelenHighly also wants to watch TV all day.
HelenHighly also wants to lay in bed and watch TV all day.

Then, when they both reveal that they perversely wish they could be invalids so they’d have an excuse to lay in bed all day and watch TV, I fell in love with screenwriter Sophie Goodhart. Add in a blind guy, jaded and bored with his own infirmity, who is smoking weed unabashedly in public, even with the police nearby, who says, “I could shoot up in front of cops and they wouldn’t do anything,” and I love this movie in full. It manages to be morbidly dark, joyfully funny and unsentimentally touching all at the same time. 

The storyline itself is genuinely fresh; unlike so many other films at this festival, I can’t think of another previous movie to compare it to. Robbie (Adam Scott) is a champion blind athlete and local philanthropic hero doted on by the community (and his parents) and seemingly incapable of wrongdoing. His apparently well-earned egotism is fed by his frequent, televised crusades to rise above his “disability” while also raising money for charity, where after each successful feat, he is surrounded by gushing reporters who never seem to notice that he tells the same, lame joke every time: “You look beautiful today,” Robbie the blind guy tells every female member of the press.

Robbie’s hapless, unassuming brother Bill (Nick Kroll) knows the real Robbie to be arrogant, selfish and rude, but he still guide-dog-faithfully runs every marathon by Robbie’s side and never makes a peep when he doesn’t receive any accolades, or when even his own parents continually criticize him. One night, Bill escapes the relentless Robbie-worship by hitting up the local bar, where despite his best efforts to present himself as unworthy and unappealing, he gets lucky with an attractive and like-hearted woman named Rose (Jenny Slate). Bill is guilt-ridden because Robbie’s blindness was the result of a childhood accident in which he was involved. Rose is a guilt-ridden because immediately after she told her fiancé she wanted to break up with him, he distractedly crossed the street and was hit and killed by a bus.

After one pitiful, anti-romantic (yet soul-soaring) night together, Rose flees without leaving her phone number. Nonetheless, Bill thinks his karma might finally be coming around and that he’s found his sad-sack love-match. But his fantasy is soon squashed when his brother introduces him to his own new paramour – the very same Rose, who (without knowing he is Bill’s brother) has started dating blind Robbie in an attempt to make herself a better person. Now Bill must decide if he will put himself second again or finally stand up to his blind brother.

"My Blind Brother" gives a new twist to the Love Triangle
“My Blind Brother” gives a new twist to the Love Triangle

Kudos to writer/director Sophie Goodhart for opting against a “when bad things happen to good people” script and instead going with “when good things happen to bad people.” Goodhart’s two, guilty, self-loathing characters are amazingly charming and lovable. Robbie makes a wonderfully heroic antagonist, whose capability and determination we slowly come to dislike more and more as the story unfolds. (The fact that actor Adam Scott looks quite a bit like a smugly smiling Tom Cruise doesn’t hurt.) And Goodhart’s ingenious twist on the conventional love-triangle takes the sentimental weight out of the usual wet blanket that hangs over traditional romantic comedies. This movie is bright and buoyant and makes us laugh at ourselves more than at mere jokes.

Goodhart’s head-on attacks of our socially-correct attitudes toward both the physically handicapped and noble self-sacrifice are deftly executed dark humor that captures what’s funny about resentment, bitterness, and condescension. Her sharp jabs at “those less fortunate” never feel like bullying and never fall into rude buffoonery. Even as the movie escalates into full-blown wackiness, it still maintains its shrewd edge.

Another strength to this film are the secondary characters. Rose’s prissy, eye-rolling, sarcastically unsympathetic roommate (Zoe Kazan) ends up with the stoner blind guy. Ha! It’s just another delightful quirk in this defiant film where apathy and under-achievement are treated as virtues and perfection is the problem to be overcome. Finally: a romantic comedy with mutually flawed lovers, where no sacrifice or self-improvement is necessary for them to win happiness and each other.

HelenHighly Votes Yes
HelenHighly Votes Yes

Just be fair, I will say that there are a few small spots where the script veers into impossible interactions – stupid things that could or would never actually be said. These mini-moments wouldn’t stand out so much if all the other moments in the script were not so true and all the other lines were not so witty. I am not usually a great lover of comedies, and the fact that I am calling this film One of the Best of Tribeca 2016 means it is truly something special. I predict that this film will not be soon forgotten.


News Update: Starz has won the bidding war over Sophie Goodhart’s SXSW premiere “My Blind Brother,” Variety reports. The acquisition will likely be the biggest sale out of this year’s South by Southwest and is estimated to be in the low seven-figure range. The comedy was reportedly sought after by distributors like Netflix, The Orchard, Sony and Gravitas Ventures. Click here for more on this news.

*****

When she is not writing about film and art on her blog, HelenHighly.com, Helen Kaplow is busy being a culture vulture in her adopted home of New York City. 

Throwback Review: Hitch

hitch

What I Remembered: I first saw Hitch when it came out about ten years ago. It was not something that was on my radar as it seemed like just another romantic comedy. But, when the movie that I intended to see was sold out I reluctantly considered seeing it. Not wanting to return to my apartment on a bone chillingly cold New York City Winter night, I decided to give it a shot. I came away pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was interesting, funny, and had some heart.

Seeing it again recently though my initial impressions have largely faded. Now, don’t get me wrong Hitch does have some good qualities. It has moments of humor, some characters that are endearing, and means well in what it tries to convey. However, in my estimation it does have some flaws too.

Download-Hitch-Movie-1024x426

The Story: Hitch centers around its main character Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) who goes by the nickname Hitch. Hitch is a charming, decent romantic who claims his profession is a “consultant” when in actuality he works secretly as the “Date Doctor.” This essentially means that men hire him to advise them on how they can woo a woman of their dreams. Hitch often puts together a plan based on the man he is consulting and the woman his client yearns to romance and has had a high success rate in the past. The “Date Doctor” is an urban myth around Manhattan and Hitch has yet to have been identified as being what he is.

One afternoon Hitch meets Albert (Kevin James) a hapless, but decent accountant. Albert is infatuated with Allegra Cole (Amber Valetta) a wealthy socialite whose account he works on. Albert has hired Hitch to help him win Allegra. Hitch knows based on Albert’s general social awkwardness and anxiousness that he has a long road of work ahead of him.

As Hitch is working with Albert he falls for Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) a somewhat cynical gossip columnist for a prestigious newspaper who seems to have given up on the idea of romantic love. Hitch uses the skills that he employs with his clients in trying to begin a relationship with Sara, but soon finds all his well laid plans backfiring.

Worst-Hitch

Technical Details: Hitch does not really stand out all that much in the world of romantic comedies. Andy Tennant’s direction is not bad, but not amazing. He was able to capture the feel of a film of its genre well enough along with social life in Manhattan, but in not too distinct a way from others like it. In addition, Kevin Bisch’s script had moments of humor, some good lines, and certain characters that are likable. However, there were other times where the dialogue was a little cringe worthy, saccharine, and Hitch’s nearly perpetual optimistic out look on life got kind of annoying.

Kevin james Hitch

Finally, the performances in it ranged from good to slightly uncomfortable. Will Smith is the epitome of a confident cool guy who also happens to be nice and was great in the starring role. Similarly, Amber Valetta was good as Allegra and she had good chemistry with Kevin James, but Eva Mendes was inconsistent in the role of Sara which is problem I often find with her in a lot of her work. In some scenes her acting was more than satisfactory, and she and Will Smith were believable together. On the other hand there were others where she was was somewhat hard to stomach. This was especially evident during a scene where she and Hitch were having an argument. However, the real surprise for me was Kevin James. He was immensely hilarious and winning as Albert and the interplay between he and Will Smith was pleasant to watch.

End Credits: Hitch was not terrible, but it was not wonderful. It had aspects that worked and some that did not. Maybe my now disappeared youthful optimism and the fact that I came in with low expectations were what helped shape my original reaction towards it. Looking at it with different eyes now, I have lost my reverence for it. You could do a lot worse than Hitch, but don’t expect to be blown away.