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7 Chinese Brothers - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
cinema_holic
cinema_holic
7 Chinese Brothers
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Directing: C+
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-



I'm a little stuck on the title of this movie. It's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I don't get about it. A little digging reveals that it references a 1984 R.E.M. song with the same name; writer-director Bob Byington revealed at a SXSW screening that the meaning of the title is in those lyrics. Which part, then? The chorus? "Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean / Seven thousand years to sleep away the pain / She will return, she will return." Whatever, I give up already.

Maybe Byington, and his collaborators, just want to congratulate themselves for being esoteric and obscure. That's pretty much what this whole movie feels like. It's all of 76 minutes long, and it still gets stale quickly.

To its credit, the performances are genial enough, particularly that of Jason Schwartzman in the lead, as Larry, who we see get fired from Buca di Beppo at the beginning of the film. This is a very odd movie for such blatant brand placement. Larry sneaks into the bar to pour booze into his 44oz convenience store cup and then replaces the booze with water, getting caught on new surveillance cameras. He makes a new nemesis of his buff kickboxer coworker when he keys the side of his car on the way out, a new snatched bottle of tequila in hand.

This all seems interesting enough in the moment, which is the case through all of 7 Chinese Brothers, even in the scenes when Larry has extended conversations with his ridiculously sleepy French bulldog, Arrow (played by . . . Arrow, Schwartzman's real-life pet). But there is no clear story arc by the end; it goes essentially nowhere. We just follow Larry along as he scores pills to pop from his nurse friend Major Norwood (Tunde Adebimpe), who also looks after Larry's grandmother (Olympia Dukakis, playing the most compelling character in the movie -- which doesn't take much).

Larry does get a new job fairly quickly, cleaning cars at a Quick Lube. He tells the new boss he is immediately smitten with, Lupe (Eleanore Pienta), that he can't believe she hired him. Neither can we. This guy doesn't take anything seriously -- not his job application or his job or his job duties. Until he starts to. He likes Lupe, which makes him like his job, which makes him pleasantly surprised to discover himself looking forward to going to work.

The thing is, in this movie, that's apparently what amounts to character development. There are some genuinely funny moments here and there, but on the whole 7 Chinese Brothers leaves you wondering what the hell the point was. With each passing scene, there's something about it that leaves you moderately interested in what might happen next, except with diminishing returns -- nothing that happens next is ever much of any import. At least not as Larry reacts to the world around him. He just deadpans his way through his life, just as Schwartzman does through this movie, leaving us with the impression that it's what Larry will just keep on doing indefinitely. So what? The movie ends, you sort of think, Huh?, then quickly decide you don't care and go home.

Olympia Dukakis and Jason Schwartzman meander through the bafflingly pointless 7 CHINESE BROTHERS.


Overall: C+
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2 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: September 2nd, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
What, "Working At the Quick Lube Blues" wasn't available?
cinema_holic From: cinema_holic Date: September 2nd, 2015 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
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Ha!
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2 comments or Leave a comment