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Time Out New York Project: Issue #783, September 30-October 6, 2010
Dir. Drake Doremus. 2010. N/R. 81mins. Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau.
The title certainly gets your attention. And fortunately, so does reed-thin lead actor Andrew Dickler, who gives an inspired comic performance as Sam Nussbaum, a days-from-his-wedding adulterer reunited with his estranged younger brother, Tom (Jones). With his mountain-man beard, slacker-hippie attire and flippant wit, Sam is like Groucho Marx gone Grizzly Adams. The pimply, dithering painter-hopeful Tom is his perfect foil, always one step behind — and often the butt of — his sibling’s punch lines. Together, they embark on an impromptu road trip to find Tom’s fifth-grade girlfriend, though it’s really an excuse for Sam to have a few last flings before his nuptials.
Their excursion is like a wispily superficial redo of the transcendental journey undertaken in Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy, and like that film, Douchebag beautifully utilizes regional landmarks (the windmills of Palm Springs, California, in this case). There’s also real poetry in two memorable set pieces: The first, at a roller-skating rink, sees Tom practice some bum-steer wooing skills on a sexy employee; the other, set at a suburban house party, gives Sam the chance to bust some hilariously overemphatic moves on the dance floor. Both brothers, in their own distinctive ways, are too eager to please those around them.
But the film never entirely overcomes the sense that it’s a calling-card vehicle. Sam and Tom’s interpersonal issues, as well as their own foibles, are wrapped up with unconvincing, Indiewood ease. And cowriter-director Drake Doremus’s aesthetic — relentless shaky-cam compositions; twee music cues — grows increasingly tiresome as the film goes on. Dickler’s one to watch, though. Let’s hope he finds a stronger showcase for his dry-as-the-Sahara jests.—Keith Uhlich
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