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Saturday, October 29, 2016

'Half Brother' Modern Family Drama



Indican Pictures continues its (Unreal TV reviewed) roll of good art-house theatrical and DVD releases with the terrific 2014 dysfunctional family drama "Half Brother." This modern take on the '70s classic Meryl Streep/Dustin Hoffman drama has 30 year-old aspiring mad man Michael returning to stay with the second family of his father Robert following two major setbacks in the life of Michael.

"Brother" additionally is interesting in that it is a feature-length version of the 2013 short film "Michael Comes Home" by writer/director Anthony Grippa.

Grippa plays wonderful homage to the pilot episode of the mother-of-all dual-career professional couple in New York sitcoms "Mad About You" by having Michael and girlfriend Sarah get busy in the bathroom during a dinner party at the home of close friends who are getting married in a few weeks. The banter throughout these scenes get "Brother" off to a good start.

For his part, Michael is working toward fulling his dream of a career in advertising and is a few days away from moving into the apartment of Sarah. His first setback comes when Sarah breaks up with him based on a pretense that harsh reality soon shows to be false.

A damaged (and already generally emotionally immature) Michael receives a second setback regarding making a bad situation at his current McJob worse. The good portrayal of Michael by Stephen Plunkett makes us feel the pain of this nice guy as he digs himself deeper into a hole regarding his employment.

Quickly approaching rock bottom while exhausting better alternatives leads to Michael seeking refuge in the (seemingly Long Island) home of his father, his step-mother, and their two teen kids. This boomerang kid soon learning on re-entry that his father is in the final stage of initial divorce proceedings amps up the drama for both men.

Watching a grown-ass Michael relive painful childhood memories while once again getting caught in the middle of the break-up of Mommy and Daddy is equally intriguing and perversely entertaining. One of the best scenes in this regard has Step-Mom include Michael in the bedtime routine of 14 year-old half-brother/new bunk beds buddy Chris.

For his part, teen actor Dante Bruzzese steals "Brother" in his portrayal of Chris. Watching him chat, bond, and joke around with a sibling who is more than twice his age make "Brother" memorable. A very teen-centric bet-oriented basketball game is one of the best scenes in the film.

"Brother" enhances its impact through hitting the trifecta of divorce cliches. We see Robert trying to sneak monetarily and sentimentally valuable items out of the family home, animosity surround a minor breach of an agreement regarding a birthday celebration for Chris, and both parents use Michael to communicate with each other.

All of these elements combine to make "Brother" a modern tale of dystopia that is worth watching. The films of yore (a.k.a. the '70s and '80s) that center around latish in life divorce have the father fall apart and greatly disrupt the life of a stable adult offspring. These movies also have any children of a second marriage be the ones who look to older half-siblings for emotional support. The message here is that even children of the '80s through the early 2000s who do not fail to launch have unstable orbits that can deteriorate on hitting the slightest bump.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Brother" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.