Paul Rudd is an interesting actor. He gives his characters something I'm going to call Ruddishness, as if to say they are all somehow related just in their excellently dry delivery of comedic dialogue. Yet he actually plays a variety of characters. He has men who get stuck in problems when they are most successful (I Love You Man), just shooting the breeze (Knocked Up), or at their lowest point (Role Models). Sometimes he also just plays complete morons (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). This new character he has created for Our Idiot Brother (directed by music video director Jesse Peretz of The Lemonheads fame) is a guy who wanders that spectrum, thus making him perhaps Rudd's most oddly well-rounded character he has yet to play. He is, however, only one part of the best ensemble cast I've seen this year.
Ned (Rudd) is such an honest guy that it makes him look like a moron. When an uniformed cop comes up to him and tells him how he has had such a hard week and would like some weed, Ned of course sells him some. Ned goes to jail and when he gets out, he tries to go back to his organic farm where his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) and her nonchalant new boyfriend (T.J. Miller) are asking that he come up with some more money if he wishes to continue living with them and his favorite companion- a dog named Willie Nelson.
So Ned decides to try out living with each of his sisters until he can get his life together. Liz (Emily Mortimer) has become so involved with parenting the youngest of two children she has started to become as typically frizzy haired as you might expect. She is married to the snobbish Dylan (Steve Coogan) who Ned tries to help out with his documentary film about ballet. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a bossy single woman who works for a magazine and is trying to get the scoop on a sex scandal involving a charitable British socialite (Janet Montgomery). She lives above a science-fiction writer (Adam Scott) and Ned begins to realize that they secretly pine for each other. Liz (Zooey Deschanel) is a warm spirited bi-sexual comedian who is currently dating a lawyer named Cindy (Rashida Jones), but after a fling with an artist (Hugh Dancy), Ned tries to help her figure out how to deal with the repercussions of cheating. Then of course there is the mother (Shirley Knight) who is somewhat oblivious to certain realities, but she loves her kids all the same (you can see that Ned is perhaps most like her). Don't forget this is all while Ned is on parole and he has to often check in with his no-nonsense parole officer (Sterling K. Brown).
Sorry for making this review plot heavy, I normally don't do that. I just wanted to showcase all of the different story-lines that the film moves between. The story goes through several twists as Ned's honesty begins to show his sisters all the lies they've been living with. This is a loaded statement, but this film felt like if someone went out today and resurrected Frank Capra who then decided to make an indie film for the Sundance crowd. The script (by Peretz, his sister Evgenia Peretz, and David Schisgall) is so sharp, funny, and introspective that moments that should feel dull are immediately lightened with the film's sweet tone. I'd definitely call this the most charming movie of the year.
The best independent dramedy of last year was Boden and Fleck's It's Kind of a Funny Story, and this is right in the same category. This film just also has some Ruddishness to it.