erik lundegaard

Movie Review: 7 Chinese Brothers (2015)

In Bob Byington’s 2012 indie comedy “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” his main character, Max (Keith Poulson), fails up: he becomes rich, successful and loved without much effort. In this slice-of-life follow-up, Larry (Jason Schwartzman) fails the more normal way: down down down.

7 Chinese BrothersLarry shares a small apartment in Austin, Texas with his soporific French bulldog (Schwartzman’s own dog, Arrow), and occasionally visits his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis, a standout) at an assisted care facility. He drinks too much. Like Max, he’s disaffected and stuck in a dead-end job even as he eyes a potential inheritance. Unlike Max, he’s a tiny bit engagé. At the least, he’s trying to amuse himself.

After filling out a job application, for example, he declares, “A couple of spelling errors but I’m going to give it a B+.” He’s forever doing a bit called “fat guy getting out of pool” that requires slowly rolling over a countertop. Asked to help at the QuickLube garage where he works, he stares deeply into a computer while tapping furiously at the keyboard. “One second,” he declares, “my stocks are crashing.”

Much of the movie seems improvised, and Schwartzman is great at making Larry both sharply intelligent and not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. You also sense, in some lost look in his eye, a faint realization that life is passing him by.

The movie has interesting twists and quality secondary characters, but it doesn’t quite gel. It shows us a character with an obvious defect, then makes it apparent, to us and to him, that the defect is holding him back.

Still, there’s a gentleness here, and a greater maturity than Byington displayed in “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” He gives us more to like. 

-- This review appeared in slightly different form in The Seattle Times. 

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Posted at 02:17 PM on Wed. Nov 11, 2015 in category Movie Reviews - 2015  

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