Movie review of “7 Chinese Brothers”: In this slice-of-life indie, Jason Schwartzman plays Larry, aimless and disaffected, who tries to amuse himself while stuck in a dead-end job. The movie doesn’t quite gel, but there’s a gentleness to it. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
In Bob Byington’s 2012 indie comedy “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” Max, his main character, fails up: He becomes rich and successful and loved without much effort. In this slice-of-life follow-up, Larry (Jason Schwartzman) fails in a more normal way: down.
Larry 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 vaguely interested in human interaction. At the least, he’s trying to amuse himself.
After filling out a job application, 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.
Movie Review ★★½
‘7 Chinese Brothers,’ with Jason Schwartzman, Stephen Root, Olympia Dukakis. Written and directed by Bob Byington. 77 minutes. Not rated (contains mild language and fistfight). SIFF Cinema Uptown.
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.”
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Much of the movie — named after an REM song — 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 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 his previous film.