Saturday, July 14, 2018

Are the Duplass brothers the Wilson brothers?

Lynn Shelton is back.

That's not what this post is about, but I'm going to lead with it.

Shelton made two of my favorite independent (comedic?) dramas of the 21st century in Humpday and Your Sister's Sister, but then she followed those up with the disappointing duo of Touchy Feely and Laggies. I lost confidence in her, and even wrote about that in this post.

Her follow-up to Laggies, Outside In, went pretty much straight to Netflix, as far as I can tell. (IMDB touts a limited release back in March, but Netflix also calls this an original film, so I don't know). That's not the indictment of a film it may have been two years ago, more a reality of where small films by people like Lynn Shelton sit in today's cinematic landscape.

But boy am I glad it was made available for me to get so easily, because given her recent track record, I might not have taken pains to seek it out. And I loved it. It's immediately near the top of my rankings for this year, 40 movies in to my 2018 viewings.

I won't go on too long about Outside In in particular, since I told you I'm here for a different reason today. But I did want to say that Shelton has gotten back the touch that eluded her (ironically, in a movie called Touchy Feely) and then some, and that Edie Falco would be worthy of award consideration if this movie had any chance of breaking through to the general consciousness. She's incredible.

It's not Falco I want to talk about today, but her co-star. And then his brother.

I don't think of myself as liking Jay Duplass very much, in general but especially as an alternative to his brother Mark. Jay has been much more likely to appear on screen than Mark lately, though it used to be the reverse. I've thought of this as a change for the worse. Part of that has to do with the roles he's chosen; my introduction to him was, I believe, Transparent, where I didn't like any of the three children of Jeffrey Tambor's transgender parent. (Not knowing, at the time, that Tambor as a person was the one I should not like.) He's been mostly fine in the subsequent films I've seen him in, but he was never the best part of the movie, and I was alternately fond (Beatriz at Dinner) and not as fond (Manson Family Vacation) of those movies.

Outside In is the type of movie that can turn you around on an actor, and I believe it's actually turning me around on two of them: not only Duplass, but Kaitlyn Dever, whom I did not like in Short Term 12 and have never really come around on. (Falco, in case you're wondering, I always liked.) Duplass gives a very good performance in and of itself, but that isn't necessarily the reason I realized I should be inclined to like him. That reason is that he's got a bit of a Luke Wilson thing going on, and I really like Luke Wilson.

Can you see it? Here, why I don't I offer you some photographic evidence.

They're not twins, but I defy you to tell me you don't see the similarity. But it isn't a physical similarity that really made me decide they resembled one another. Duplass delivers a couple lines in this movie in a way that I can exactly see Wilson delivering them. It's also a bit of a Wilson role, as Wilson has tended to take more roles in independent films than his own more famous brother, who we'll get to in a minute. This is very much a Henry Pool is Here type role, if not in terms of the similarity of the actual characters (an ex-con who was falsely imprisoned re-integrating with society, vs. a man living out his remaining days before a terminal illness claims him) then in terms of the movies and their aims. Both involve a man who had written himself off trying to learn to live again.

They're also more contemporaries than you might think -- it just took Duplass longer to become famous. You'd think Duplass would be significantly younger than Wilson, but the age difference is only 18 months. In terms of their own dynamics with their brothers, they are both the more traditionally handsome of the pair, and both took longer to break out after their brothers were kind of instant successes. Though I was surprised to learn that Jay is actually the older Duplass, while knowing that Luke was the younger Wilson.

So let's get to those brothers, then. The similarity does not end with Jay and Luke.

Mark and Owen are both the more openly charismatic brother, who both have more distinctive noses, and who both were a more obvious immediate fit as movie stars, though that would probably be a term that would rankle Mark. They are also more likely than their brothers to have messy cowlicks and shaggy, shoulder length hair. They are less like twins than Jay and Luke, but they too have interesting physical similarities, making it more genuinely legitimate to compare the two sets of brothers than a huge stretch.

I'd say Mark and Owen's acting styles are less similar than those of Jay and Luke, as Owen is much more willing to go big and Mark tends to be a consummately realistic actor. (Though it should be noted he does play a serial killer in the Creep movies.) Still, both had their origins in smaller, more eccentric movies. Don't forget that the first time you saw Wilson -- or at least the first time I saw Wilson, though you might be more likely to forget that -- was in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket. (Actually, that might have been my first time for both Wilsons.)

I suppose there might be a grand unifying theory of successful brothers somewhere in here. If you are brothers gaining fame concurrently, it likely helps to offer something distinctly different to one another. I could try to think of other examples of brothers who attempted to become famous, but were just too similar, and of course that's difficult to do since it's much harder to demonstrate something's absence than its presence. But just as an extreme example of that, how many identical twins are famous actors in Hollywood? Not many, possibly not any. They'd be more likely to work in niche situations where you needed characters who were identical twins than to break out as distinctive actors with their own careers. And you don't really need that anymore, either, when you can make digital twins out of anyone.

The next step would be to look at other sets of brothers and see if they also conform to the Duplass-Wilson model, but, not today.

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