Most films are bound by a necessity for its lead characters to be depicted as likable individuals that audiences can root for. However, My Blind Brother dares not only to subvert that expectation across the board but to make perhaps its most unlikable figure the titular blind man played by Adam Scott. With her feature debut, writer/director Sophie Goodhart attempts to challenge the current politically correct social environment and, in doing so, reunites three comedic stars who have all appeared on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
My Blind Brother – based on the 2003 short film of the same name created by Goodhart – centers on the rivalry between brothers Robbie (Scott) and Bill (Nick Kroll). After Bill shares a night of connection with a guilt-ridden woman (Jenny Slate), he is shocked to soon discover that she’s dating his blind brother instead. From there, the film embarks on a number of increasingly sitcom-y setups that amount to the sort of minimalist film that Judd Apatow would make on a small budget and, you know, without Seth Rogen in a pivotal role.
Both Scott and Kroll are well-suited to their roles – which dare to make them aggressively unsympathetic man-children – but the casting is almost too on-point with what you’d expect from the stars. Perhaps if their roles were reversed, the emotional underpinnings behind the brothers’ complicated and often contentious relationship would come to a more surprising and satisfying resolution. As it stands, the comedy is too broad to really connect, lending parts of the film a weird surreal quality that flies in the face of its attempts to establish any kind of dramatic footing.
That said, My Blind Brother does shine with regard to Jenny Slate, whose character of Rose has the most compelling psychology and most coherent journey. Though her star is still on the rise, Slate first broke through on the big screen thanks to 2014 comedy/drama Obvious Child, and she has since appeared in several hit TV series as well as voiced major characters in two massive animated hits from earlier this year, Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets. Her brand of quirky, self-deprecating humor fits My Blind Brother perfectly, making the inherent flaws in other aspects of the film’s storytelling that much more apparent as a result.
Zoe Kasan – best known as the female lead and writer of 2012 comedy/drama Ruby Sparks – also elevates her few scenes with a standout supporting role as Rose’s roommate, who gets drawn into the bizarre love triangle that Rose finds herself in. Perhaps Kasan’s Francie is afforded more of the straight-up jokes in the film because of her unique position outside the predominant conflict, but whatever the case may be, the actress emerges as the de facto MVP of My Blind Brother simply for the impact she makes with relatively little background and minimal scenes to play with the other members of the leading cast.
While not a home run, this comedy/drama might still be worth a look for fans of any of its charismatic stars (especially Slate and Kazan) and for those looking for a comedy that at least attempts to infuse darker elements in with its awkward laughs. Certainly, it marks a welcome reunion for fans of Parks and Recreation, giving three of today’s most underrated comedic talents the opportunity to take center stage. Even though My Blind Brother doesn’t completely work from a narrative standpoint, it offers enough twists and pleasant performances to keep audiences invested throughout its brisk 85-minute runtime.
My Blind Brother is an effective vehicle for its stars - especially Jenny Slate - but it never truly gels as a particularly compelling narrative with something meaningful to say.