The Overbrook Brothers held my interest reasonably well, but in the end it just wasn’t special. I suspect I’ll forget its particulars as fast or faster than those of the average movie I see.
As is common in the indie film genre, it’s a combination comedy/drama about some young adults and their relationships.
Jason comes home for Christmas with his girlfriend Shelly, warning her that his family is weird even compared to run-of-the-mill weird families, and that they’d be better off making an excuse to get out of it. The Christmas gathering consists of—in addition to Jason and Shelly—his father (they talk about the mother like she’s dead, but in fact they’re divorced and she’s on a vacation with her boyfriend), his brother Todd and a short term girlfriend of his (he’s apparently something of a playboy), and his brother George.
It’s not clear what the point of the inclusion of George is, as he is quickly forgotten and the movie becomes a story of the absurdly extreme sibling rivalry between Jason and Todd.
Todd seems more the villain, as he incessantly rubs in the fact (or at least the allegation) that he was always better at everything than Jason—sports, getting girls, etc. He even fancies himself a better writer, though Jason’s profession is writer (well, his intended profession anyway). Later in the movie, Todd reads, without permission, the manuscript that Jason has been working on for years—a love story set in Medieval times about gay knights; it’s not specified if they wore white satin—and proceeds to rework large portions of it to prove he can write better.
Looking to score points at Christmas dinner, Todd announces that he’s long known that Jason was adopted, as he discovered the adoption papers one day when a normally locked desk drawer was inadvertently left unlocked. They have a big fight about it, and that night Jason breaks into the desk to find out for himself. He finds adoption papers not only for himself but also for Todd, which comes as a big surprise to Todd. (Why? How could he have seen only the papers for Jason and not himself years ago, since they’re in the same drawer right on top of each other?)
Jason and Shelly set off on a road trip to the location of the adoption in Texas. Todd wants to come with them, they resist as long as they can, but eventually circumstances do indeed result in their all going together.
Todd’s temporary girlfriend had long since bailed out, offended by the brothers’ bickering. Soon Shelly follows suit as they continue to joust on the road, verbally and otherwise. She recognizes that Todd is the bigger asshole, and the instigator of almost all the conflict, but she faults Jason for going along with the nonsense and letting what Todd says bother him so much.
So from there it’s just the brothers investigating their adoptions. They’re both keen to find out all they can, but Todd is willing to go a lot farther to use whatever means is necessary—legal, illegal, official channels, unofficial channels, cajoling, begging, bribery, theft, etc.
Along the way they have adventures and get into and out of trouble. There are plenty of holes in the story that I can’t explain without giving away too much, but even allowing a certain suspension of disbelief for what is, in part, a comedy, there are still too many implausibilities.
As I say, overall The Overbrook Brothers is really not a bad movie. As a comedy it’s modestly successful. I got a few laughs out of the silly elements of the sibling rivalry, though interestingly the part near the end that’s clearly supposed to be the most outrageous and hilarious really didn’t do that much for me.
As a drama about important human issues like relationships, family, and the emotional impact of finding out as an adult that you were adopted, it is, again, modestly successful. It got me thinking about and caring about these more serious issues at least a bit.
I thought the father was good in trying to control his competing sons, and in having to react to and explain the big secret they find out. Actually there was a lack of smoothness to his performance that put me in mind of when non-actors are used in place of actors, like in a Gus Van Sant movie. In general I’m not sure whether someone’s seeming more like a real person than an actor makes him an unusually good actor or a weak one, but here I experienced it more as a positive.
To some extent I got drawn into both following the development of the relationship of the brothers and how this road trip would affect it, and the adoption story of their trying to locate their biological families. The thing is, the latter ultimately feels like more of a pretense to get the brothers together so the movie can explore that first issue, and as a story to hang some gags on. Other viewers may feel differently, but to me the adoption angle isn’t as satisfyingly developed, and isn’t given much of a resolution.
The Overbrook Brothers is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour and a half, but not a movie that made a big impression on me.