Douchebag (Red Dragon Entertainment, NR)

Surprisingly, Douchebag has some substance and doesn’t rely on its weirdness for the hook.

 

Douchebag is definitely the type of film you would expect to be an official selection at Sundance. It’s quirky, low-fi and offbeat with a provocative title that is sure to grab one’s attention. By some people’s standards, this all translates into quality (think Napoleon Dynamite). Surprisingly, Douchebag has some substance and doesn’t rely on its weirdness for the hook.

The plot focuses on Tom (Ben York Jones) and his wickedly bearded brother Sam (Andrew Dickler) who, in anticipation of Sam’s wedding, have reconnected two years after a falling out. These two couldn’t be any more different. Tom is insecure, a hopeless romantic and still supported by his parents as he struggles to find success as an artist. Sam, on the other hand, is self-sufficient, cocky and a douchebag.

They are reunited at the urging of Sam’s fiancé Steph (Marguerite Moreau), who deeply wishes to meet Tom and have him attend the wedding. As a final hurrah before getting married, Sam suggests that he and Tom take a road trip to find Tom’s girlfriend from elementary school, Mary Barger, and ask her to be Tom’s date for the wedding. Over the course of the trip they contact a couple of Mary Bargers and do some sightseeing and some soul-searching. Meanwhile, Steph discovers that Sam is, in fact, a douchebag.

This is the second feature film from co-writer and director Drake Doremus, whose previous effort Spooner also featured Jones. Doremus, along with Dickler, Jonathan Schwartz, and with Lindsay Stidham have created a familiar story. They make up for it with interesting dialogue and some truly poignant scenes. One such scene involves Tom and the free-spirited Mary Barger #2 (Nicole Vicius of Half Nelson) sharing a couple’s skate. Although she is not the Mary Barger he is looking for, she considers going as Tom’s date. She and Tom then share a kiss, and at that moment, she decides not to go because she believes it will not work out between them.

For a film of this size and scope, the performances of the two leads were generally good enough to work. Dickler is an editor by trade, and he and Jones struggle a bit in a few spots, but he certainly shows potential. They share great chemistry and are very believeable as uneasy brothers. Moreau (Hot Wet American Summer) has the most effective and understated performance of the film, playing a fiancé who realizes she may have fallen in love with the wrong man.

The film invokes some of the traits of the so-called mumblecore movement with its use of improvisation, verté-style camerawork and examination of interpersonal relationships. In fact, I couldn’t help being reminded of the superior The Puffy Chair, the mumblecore feature by the Duplass Brothers, who directed this year’s Cyrus.
Douchebag, with its idiosyncrasies and DIY aesthetic, could have been a lot worse. It’s a film about bohemians for a bohemian audience and does what it can to achieve that kind of cred. Despite its shortcomings, there is enough substance to recommend the film. | Justin Tucker

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply