A man helps his blind brother through various athletic feats and resents him because, quite frankly, his brother is a big jerk. One day, this man finds a girl he really likes—at a wake for her boyfriend—and when she gets cold feet after their night together, she turns it into a one night stand, fleeing to devote herself to worthy projects. Of course, that worthy project turns out to be helping the blind, and soon she’s doing helper stuff with the titular blind brother, who also ends up sweet on her.
What won’t they think of next?
This was the second movie in our five-fer-five (Don’t Breathe, My Blind Brother, Sully, Eight Days A Week and The Magnificent Seven), which is one of those weird things where we just happen to go to the movies every single day for some stretch. In this case, it was probably because we were a little tired from the Haunt. If you can’t do much else, you can sit in a movie theater and eat popcorn, amirite?
This is one of those movies where you can give it a positive review and sound sort of condescending. Siskel and Ebert (see Life Itself) got into a thing once where Siskel chides Ebert for giving thumbs up to a Lassie movie but thumbs down to a flawed, but grand work (like Full Metal Jacket or something) and Ebert sort of fumbles with it, but the point is Lassie (or this movie) isn’t going to make you rethink your views on race relations or the Middle East situation. It’s probably not going to make you rethink how you feel about the blind (although we’ll come back to that) but it’s mostly not trying to do any of that. It’s just trying to sell its story about some people who got problems, and how they come through those problems, and do so in a reasonably amusing way.
So, success there. And not to be sneezed at.
Nick Kroll (“The League”, the upcoming Sing) is Bill, our hero, the “My” in My Blind Brother, and he’s kind of a loser. He manages a copy shop (like a Kinko’s), though not very well, apparently, where he runs off copies of flyers to help his brother Robbie (Adam Scott, Krampus) in his various quasi-heroic fund-raising efforts. When he meets Rose (abortion enthusiast Jenny Slate, Zootopia, The Lorax) she’s at a wake, stricken with grief over the death of her ex-boyfriend. The key is that she was breaking up with him when he got hit by a car, and so she feels guilty. Also, she was breaking up with him for some stupid reason, so she feels shallow.
This is remedied with a roll in the hay with Bill. But, of course, not really. She feels even worse the next morning, like (if nothing else) she should’ve been respectful of her recently ended relationship. She runs off without giving him her phone number and Bill is bereft, as he really felt a connection with her in their mutual desire to waste their lives watching television. Robbie, meanwhile, having detected Bill’s hostility toward yet-another-heroic-feat has decided to go to a blind support group to find someone who can help him train for his big swim. And that someone turns out to be…Rose. Through a misunderstanding, and Rose’s generally dissolute nature, she ends up in a relationship with Robbie. Bill’s a little ticked at this, but it turns out she still has feelings for Bill.
Yeah, well, that’s the world we live in, I guess.
Debuting director Sophie Goodhart (writing and directing from a short she did in 2003) does a good job of making her characters likable enough even when they’re being kind of not likable. (Adam Scott seems to have made a career out of playing unlikable characters, Krampus notwithstanding.) Kroll is fairly appealing despite his lack of ambition. Slate is rather appealing both emotionally and physically in a kind of unique way. Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia) who plays Rose’s friend and the voice of reason in her life, also has a distinctive appeal to her.
So it gets points for being different, for sure. There’s a lot of jokes, not all of them blind-guy jokes. But the blind guy jokes are pretty good, and as I have frequently noted, it is often only the comedies that do justice to the handicapped by not venerating them, and by giving them the dignity of being real, flawed human beings. This movie is no exception. Robbie is a jerk, big time. But not unrelentingly so. He’s pissed about being blind. He kind of blames his brother. But he does love his brother. Scott straddles that line pretty well, probably from years of practice.
I’m going to go into “old fogey” mode for one final comment: These people are way too old for this. Scott is 43. Kroll is 38. Slate is 34. Kazan is 33. Our characters’ behavior was pretty irritating when it was common in the 20-somethings back in ’80s films. But people closing in on their 40s are moving toward tragedy. They used to say youth was wasted on the young: I wonder if they still would?