SXSW Film Review: My Blind Brother

on March 15, 2016, 6:18pm

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sxsw film 20162 e1457283247553 SXSW Film Review: My Blind Brother

Who knew Nick Kroll could be such a believable softie? After closing up shop on one of Comedy Central’s loudest and most vivid programs — the now-defunct Kroll Show — he’s since anchored two lighthearted indie dramedies that put a big ol’ cozy blanket on the heart while it takes a pleasant afternoon nap. Last year, he begrudgingly helped out his pregnant sister in Ross Katz’s enjoyable Adult Beginners, and now he’s doing the same dance for another sibling in Sophie Goodhart’s pleasant romp, My Blind Brother. Truth be told, it’s not a bad look.

Adapted from her own 2003 short film of same name, Goodhart’s story follows Bill (Kroll) and Robbie (Adam Scott), two brothers who live together, eat together, and essentially do everything together. There’s a reason, though: Robbie is blind. Yet unlike Bill, he’s a total go-getter; he participates in marathons, runs a charity, makes public appearances, you name it, he does it. But so does Bill, if only because he has to — he’s Robbie’s eyes. Things wouldn’t be so rough if Robbie weren’t so narcissistic and self-absorbed, making Bill’s job more or less thankless.

Of course, things only get worse: Early on, Bill meets a curious woman at the bar named Rose (Jenny Slate), who’s tearfully attending an ultra depressing wake. The twist? It’s for her ex-boyfriend, whose death she feels responsible for. Basking in their own respective resentments, the two hit it off and share a one-night stand. Deciding it’s a mistake, Rose leaves a devastated Bill, insisting she needs to atone for her sins. The second twist? She attempts to find salvation by signing up to help Robbie, not knowing he’s the brother of the guy she literally just walked out on.

It’s a premise that writes itself, but that predictability is so often overshadowed by its fresh design, which recalls the Farrelly brothers’ glory years, back when they had both the balls and the pitch to make it move. Here, Goodhart throws us a curve ball by making Robbie into an insufferable, egotistical talkbox, who chats himself up more than anyone else around him. Even better, he’s surrounded by photos and accolades and tributes he can’t even see, but insists upon. At one point, he has Rose watch a video of his 26-mile marathon, as if that would be exciting.

Similar to the Rhode Island duo, Goodhart carves out a handful of unconventional characters and has fun with them. Some might argue it’s taboo, but really, she’s treating the disabled as they ought to be treated — like everyone else — and that rare inclusivity allows for some hilarious situational comedy, such as when Robbie walks in on Bill having sex in the living room, or how Charlie Hewson’s stoner sidekick GT argues that he should be able to own a gun. It’s also funny how he avoids any arrest despite toking up in front of the cops.

Kroll can do the resentful loser in his sleep, Slate knows how to make any trainwreck charming, and Scott will always win the Rob Lowe Award for lovable pricks. The three have a storied history together, and it’s their chemistry that winds up being paramount for this film, selling so much of the story’s underwritten drama. While we don’t exactly get a grasp on their inner demons, at least not until a few revelations bubble up toward the end, the feelings they share for one another are palpable, and a lot of that hinges on their uncanny ability to work with one another.

Everyone appears miserable in My Blind Brother, but it’s not a miserable film. It’s a sunny, warm escape where the stakes are mild and the humor’s not too heavy, but just right. The romance doesn’t have enough glue — tell me why a drunken one-night stand is the love of your life, Bill? — but the heartfelt bond between the two brothers should choke up even the most disparate siblings by the film’s end. Kroll could do much worse than popping up in harmless dramedies each year, and if they’re as spunky and enjoyable as My Blind Brother, we’ll have to consider it an annual tradition.

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