Larry (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy who isn’t afraid to be himself, but also doesn’t know how to and when to draw the line. He’s constantly getting into trouble at his work, which ultimately leads to him getting into a shouting match with his boss. Now unemployed and spending more time with his bulldog, the only thing motivating Larry to get a job is his sick grandmother (Olympia Dukakis), whom he visits every week. He also meets with his grandmothers nurse, Major Norwood (Tunde Adebimpe) whom is his friend and dealer. Things only look up when Larry’s new boss, Lupe (Eleanore Pienta), motivates him to enjoy his new job.
7 Chinese Brothers caters heavily toward the camp who love deadpan Jason Schwartzman playing someone down on their luck, which is why I enjoyed it more than some of my peers. Schwartzman and his film roles often prove wrong the theory that “loser” characters can make an interesting movie. His characters are also very grounded in reality, only enhancing how real the world he inhabits is. Now, this film isn’t always funny and does suffer from scenes which go on too long, but it was one of the funnier films at the festival.
Jason Schwartzman is the acting version of Wes Anderson, a quirky man who’s constantly telling the story of an unusual man. Here, Schwartzman is working a blue-collar job and finding himself detached from the rest of the world. Some of that feeling is warranted, as he’s constantly joking around and not afraid to overstep boundaries. His humor may be inappropriately timed, or just off-beat, but Schwartzman wins you over with his unapologetic nature. He’s himself and he’s not trying to fit in. The observational humor is also quite funny, as Schwartzman throws out some of the most obscure references. Whether he’s talking to his dog, or attempting to flirt with women, Schwartzman never drops the ball and completely sells the role.
Olympia Dukakis as Schwartzman’s grandmother in the film was a fantastic casting choice, as she’s more than his equal and is unafraid to be cold right back to him. She’s a spunky woman and she’s prone to telling it how it is, which make some of her words affect Schwartzman more than she realizes. She shows more range when she empathizes for his character, but she’s her absolute best when she is having these honest conversations with him. Eleanore Pienta plays her loving boss in spectacular fashion, riffing with Schwarztman from time-to-time, while also discouraging him with her relations with other men.
Writer/Director Bob Byington spoke to the audience after screening this film and his humor was right in line with Schwartzman’s. He was completely deadpan about everything and he scored large applauses, as he was a dead ringer for Schwartzman. The two work very well with the dialogue and nothing he says ever seems out-of-place. There’s a great deal of focus on Schwartzman’s dog (in the film and in real life) and how he interacts with it which reveals more about his character. Byington also directs a great deal of physical humor as well, serving as a nice reminder that physical comedy is wildly underused and undervalued.
At 76 minutes, the film doesn’t feel all that long in total. There are many moments in the film, however, which stretch out the scene and the overall length and those are the moments which feel far longer. Some of the banter in the film just isn’t all that funny, but it feels as if they’re trying to be being clever about every joke. The film does emphasize some silver linings for Schwartzman’s character, but it felt as if everything in his life conveniently got worse and worse as time went on.
7 Chinese Brothers is full of rich, dry humor which you’re either going to appreciate or not. Jason Schwarztman continues to play his similar empathetic characters and a great deal of you enjoyment from this film will derive from how much you like that character of his. I’m a fan of this character and I think he works incredibly well with the given dialogue. His actions aren’t always explainable and his situation deteriorates a bit too quickly, but there’s no denying the quick pace of the film and its many clever jokes which do stick.
7 Chinese Brothers Trailer