My Blind Brother
Directed by Sophie Goodhart
Opens September 23
A rom-com about thirtysomethings bogged down by feelings of guilt, My Blind Brother stakes out some rather dark territory but skews low-key all the while—a mix that can be off-putting, though a handful of nice performances do keep the proceedings agreeable enough. Writer-director Sophie Goodhart’s feature debut, which premiered this spring at SXSW before heading north to Tribeca, begins as two men, their arms tied together by what looks like a resistance band, approach the finish line of a marathon. After the race, Bill (Nick Kroll) sneaks off behind a Porta-Potty to smoke some weed and later has a one-night stand with a woman he hits it off with at a bar (Jenny Slate); meanwhile, his sightless brother, the handsome and athletic Robbie (Adam Scott), accepts an oversize check on behalf of a local charity, giving a rather self-aggrandizing speech in the process.
Due to a combination of parental pressure and his own remorse for a consequential bit of childhood cruelty, the idle Bill, who holds down a going-nowhere job as a copy-shop manager, unfailingly (if unhappily) serves as his golden-boy brother’s right-hand man. But as Robbie prepares to follow up the marathon with a grueling swim across a lake, someone new has volunteered to help him train—Rose, the very same woman who, feeling unreasonably guilty herself for the recent accidental death of her ex-boyfriend, declined to give Bill her number after they fell into bed together earlier in the film. It is a good old-fashioned romantic competition, then, that makes up the film’s central conflict: Rose, who doesn’t seem to have any particular feelings for Robbie but doesn’t want to reject him and thus make him feel bad, allows herself to get stuck in a relationship with him; Bill, who’s much more on Rose’s low-achieving wavelength, falls harder for her the longer she’s around the house he shares with Robbie.
The best part of My Blind Brother (not to be confused with 2011’s similarly shambling Our Idiot Brother) is without a doubt the interplay between Adam Scott, tapping into the runaway self-importance of his career-high performance as the D-man in Step Brothers, and Kroll, here thickly bearded and sardonically downtrodden, a far cry from the unapologetic asshole he played on the long-running sitcom The League, probably the comic’s best-known role to date. When it’s just the two of them, Robbie and Bill have an easy, teasing rapport that shows their genuine (if very grudging) love for each other—though Robbie’s certainly not above shoving Bill out of the way to hog the spotlight. Slate, for her part, manages to stay likable—something of a feat considering that Rose’s best intentions lead her to do what are in fact some rather deplorable things (as her quippy roommate, Zoe Kazan puts her friend’s bad deeds into sharp focus). These are intriguingly damaged individuals who are nonetheless shortly put through the motions of a rather forgettable love-triangle comedy, one in which the emotional stakes come to seem fairly low. Refreshingly prickly at its outset, My Blind Brother nonetheless develops into a typically anodyne indie.