Friday, April 2, 2010

On-Demand: THE OVERBROOK BROTHERS; John Bryant's film amuses and illuminates

Surprises dot John Bryant's sneaky little movie from its very start, as we're thrust into medieval times to watch two men about to be put to death for doin' the nasty -- on each other. And then the next surprise occurs. THE OVERBROOK BROTHERS is a modern-day tale of a modern-day family, which is to say this is not quite the set of relatives that most of us will have experi-
enced. So as not to ruin those surprises, instead of giving away plot twists, lets concentrate on some of the themes that Mr. Bryant is addressing -- from the brotherhood of man (in a number of odd ways) to creativ-
ity, love, sex and even maybe religion. For now that TrustMovies thinks about it, that snake that makes an entrance toward the finale may possess a bit of religious symbolism, whether intentional or unconscious on the part of the moviemaker (shown below).

That Mr. Bryant's very first scene has to do with homosexuality is no accident, I think, for the film is chock-a-block with gay references and gay terror -- the kind felt by straight men who haven't a clue what to do with those feelings they're having that don't exactly fit into "straight-man" territory, which is to say (and I suspect that this is the movie-maker's point) most straight men.  For, make no mistake about this, the director and co-writer (with Jason Foxworth) is dealing here with guys who are predominantly heterosexual, though these two may be a tad farther along that Kinsey scale than either of them realizes or would want to admit. 

The Overbook Brothers turns out to be a kind of road movie and much of our time is spent traveling with brothers Todd (played by Mark Reeb, shown at right, above and below) and Jason (Nathan Harlan, shown at left, above and below) as they attempt to track down one of those aforementioned secrets that have recently spilled out.  Along with them comes Jason's girlfriend (Laurel Whitsett).  This threesome comes closer than you might think to another such -- the two guys and a girl from Humpday -- that created an indie fuss last year. Except that these two "brothers" actually do a lot more exploring of their feelings, sexual and otherwise, than do the two men in Lynn Shelton's more obvious but, for me, less honest movie.

Identity (and the loss of same) also figures into the mix along with the question of what it is that makes us "family."  Mr. Bryant handles his themes surprisingly well, I think, never pushing them on us but making sure they explode, with humor and surprise, out of his rather bizarre plot.  Things get pretty crazy (well, hey, much of the film is set in Texas) but they never quite vacate the realm of possibility.   Finally, along with the surprise, humor, exploration and discovery, comes a quiet poignancy.  I am happy to declare that Mr. Bryant and his cast never push this, either.

The imagined episodes ---one of which is shown above -- are handled with economy, style and wit, as well.  Available from IFC's Festival Direct On-Demand program, The Overbrook Brothers can be found via most major TV-reception providers.  Click here to discover if yours is one of these.


Anonymous said...

This is a great movie from start to finish. The acting is very good and the characters are much more complex than we think when the film opens. Subtle character development along with first rate acting, especially Mark Reeb, make this a winner

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon. I am so glad to see that somebody's watching the overlooked OVERBROOK BROS. It really is a terrific little film. And you're right about the characters being much more complex than we originally imagine.