07 October, 2016

"My Blind Brother" Review (***½)

Jenny Slate, Adam Scott and Nick Kroll in "My Blind Brother."

Adam Scott, Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate star in this brutally honest comedy about disability. "My Blind Brother" dives head first into the subject and puts a fresh spin on the ‘slacker comedy.'

Adam Scott plays Robbie. He’s a star athlete and a local icon whose blindness only pushes him to do better. His brother Bill, on the other hand, is not quite as motivated. We get everything we need to know from our two leads in the opening scene, where we see Robbie—rocking sun glasses and a tracksuit—running along side his sweat-drenched little brother, Bill. The two are strapped together as Bill guides Robbie to the finish line. The surrounding crowd goes wild as they celebrate Robbie and completely ignore Bill as he collapses in an effort to catch his breath.

Though the two brothers’ love for each other is obvious, Robbie’s endless determination is draining Bill. Kroll plays the constantly annoyed Bill perfectly and Adam Scott’s Robbie is just as cocky as he is self-absorbed. However, their relationship is made even more complicated when Jenny Slate’s Rose enters the picture. Rose meets Bill at a party and the two bond over their lack of motivation and a shared interest in television. Slate is amazing as always and as charming as ever. She’s just so darn likeable. Rose is grieving the death of her ex-boyfriend (which she blames herself for) and commits her time to charity work—in the form of helping Robbie with his training. Robbie quickly falls for Rose. This love triangle/secret affair is the crux of the drama as well as the comedy.

Kroll and Slate have great chemistry and it’s hilarious to watch their characters walk the line between goodwill and pity. The rest of the cast includes Zoe Kazan as Rose’s best friend and Charlie Hewson as Bill’s stoner friend who is also blind. Both are fantastic.

I got to sit down with Charlie Hewson at the Macon Film Festival and learned that first time writer/director Sophie Goodhart was largely inspired by her own life story. Goodhart has dealt with disability in her family in the past and very much drew from her own experiences for this story, allowing for many of the film’s themes—such as jealousy and resentment—to ring genuine. The movie is very much a passion project. Goodhart made a short film of the same name nearly a decade ago and has been trying to get this feature made for just as long.

The film does fall short in allowing the audience to ever care about Robbie. The character is so unlikeable, often unbelievably so. Perhaps with more time, the character could have been fleshed out a bit more. Robbie, unfortunately, never feels like a real person. The chemistry between the leads, however, keeps the film afloat and Sophie Goodhart’s writing is always sharp and clever.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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