Review: Long-delayed 'Do-Deca Pentathalon' captures developing Duplass voice
The missing link from 'The Puffy Chair' to 'Cyrus' finally finds its way onscreen
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating n/a
It's not quite accurate to call this the "new" film from the Duplass Brothers.
That's actually "Jeff, Who Lives At Home." Or "Kevin," a documentary that they also recently finished.
What happened here is that before "Cyrus," the Duplass Brothers directed this film about what happens when two brothers let something fester, unfinished, and then they ran out of money and time to finish it, and so it festered, unfinished. And now, finally, they've gone back and completed it, and the result is a charming, low-key look at brotherly competition and the ways it can twist an already complicated dynamic into something sour and painful.
Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis) are estranged as the film opens, largely due to a competition they held decades ago called The Do-Deca Pentathalon, which ended in controversy. There was no clear winner chosen, and as a result, they've been unable to be around each other ever since.
I liked Kelly and Zissis in the film. I think they do good work. And I think the script for the film is interesting, generally well-explored. But there's something about this that feels like a rough sketch of something more polished. When you look at "Cyrus," which came after this, there's a jump there. And then the same is true of "Jeff, Who Lives At Home." This feels like the beginning of a process that these later films are also part of, something that stands separate from "Baghead" and "The Puffy Chair." There's more of a focus, more of a conventional movie shape delivered with an unconventional movie voice.
I think the film gets better as it wears on, as the characters finally start to feel more relaxed and natural, and by the end, I bought the sentiment it reaches for. It feels genuinely earned, and not just a phony formula epiphany. If you like the work that the Duplass Brothers do as filmmakers, then you're probably going to enjoy seeing this important step along the way. And I would imagine there's nothing but upside for Fox Searchlight on a film this small, especially when it's an idea that's so easy to explain in a trailer. I'll be curious to see what happens when they release it later this year.
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