Far less noxious—and much more crossover-friendly—than most of their peers, writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass had established a comfy little niche in the Amerindie landscape, imbuing films like The Puffy Chair (2005) and Baghead (2008) with a shaggy-dog humor that’s an antidote to all that SXSW-sponsored mopiness. (Not that they aren’t down with the m-core crowd; as an actor, Mark has appeared in approximately every third independent movie made throughout the past five years. When does this guy sleep?) That they managed to procure both studio backing and actual stars for a project is not really a surprise; the shock is that this modest middle ground between microbudget and the multiplex is where they’ve actually belonged since the beginning.
So let’s give these siblings a hand for taking Fox Searchlight’s dime and giving them back a cringe-comedy about a likeable schlub (Reilly), his new dream girlfriend (Tomei) and her vengeful, clingy adult-olescent son (Hill) that’s essentially an ever-so-slightly polished Duplass brothers’ movie. You can spot tiny concessions—a moratorium on lovey-dovey montages, please—but the directors’ offbeat, underground-ish sensibility punctures the material’s mainstream qualities while still keeping things palatable. It’s the rare tale of Oedipal one-upmanship that feels charming, comically sharp and creepy in equal measures, helped by actors tuned in to the filmmakers’ gently fucked-up frequency. Neither Reilly nor Tomei have ever seemed so effortlessly funny, and whoever thought to cast one of Judd Apatow’s regulars as a dysfunctional, disturbed manchild should be dubbed a genius.—David Fear
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See also The Hot Seat