The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best defies expectations

The world has changed a lot over the past five years.  International economic woes can be felt everywhere and it’s easy to see how the landscape of our future has been distorted.  With less investment and fewer companies willing to take a chance on unproven commodities, big dreams now seem even more unlikely.  How, then, does a society respond to such an outlook?  One way is to alter its perspective.  Ryan O’Nan’s directorial debut The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best illustrates just such a concept taking hold.  On the surface, it’s an enjoyable indie road trip flick, but the moral of the story is reflective of the road western society is currently on.

In centring the film on a character attempting to break into the music industry, O’Nan has obviously played to his own strengths.  On top of writing the story, O’Nan also wrote many of the songs he performs as Alex in The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best.  However, the music business is a perfect example of the toll economic struggles (and, of course, the internet) have taken on once thriving, vital industries.  With fewer record labels, a shrinking market for albums and music retailers, the career that Alex dreams of has never been more of a long shot.  Saddled with a job he hates and recently dumped by the woman he loves, Alex doesn’t have a lot going for him.  Yet, he’s not cut of the stereotypical slacker cloth.  He clearly has both talent and ambition, but said ambition isn’t to just slog through a white-collar existence.  Sure, Alex may perform for mentally disabled young adults in a pink moose outfit and his shotgun-collaboration with Jim (Michael Weston via Charlie Day) is fairly far-fetched, but the offbeat nuisances of The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best sit well alongside a message that says this- right here, right now- is it.

Cinematically speaking, The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best is imperfect but delightfully funny and refreshing.  O’Nan carries a pitch-perfect demeanour and his deadpan humour provides many great moments of laughter.  Weston is an absolute joy to watch as Jim, the children’s toy instrument prodigy.  Together, their unconventional two-man band, The Brooklyn Brothers (which the film’s title really should be shortened to) produce a sound described as “what David Bowie would write when he was six” that is surprisingly infectious, adding considerably to the overall enjoyment of the film.  The editing makes for smooth transitions between performances and the narrative.  Rounding out the central characters is Arielle Kebbel.  She joins the duo on the road as their self-appointed manager, Cassidy and serves the purpose well.  There are also a handful of cameos from the likes of Andrew McCarthy (great in the 80s!), a sneering Wilmer Valderrama and Melissa Leo (but blink and you’ll miss her) that provide dashes of extracurricular entertainment along the way.

Despite a plot that is at times ridiculous and promotes some awfully dangerous driving tactics, the execution of The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best’s story is superb.  As Alex and Jim make their way across the US in their cramped compact car, their ups and downs are so amusing that it becomes easy to accept that there is no clichéd happy ending for the pair.  Where in the past, films have often been about the underdog achieving the impossible, The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best convincingly makes a case for changing both expectation and perception.  There’s still escapism, romance and some sharp, adult-oriented comedy involved, but O’Nan’s impressively thoughtful début issues a serious, but optimistic proposal beneath the music and merriment.  8/10

The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best reaches UK cinemas 20 July

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