7 Chinese Brothers
Starring Jason Schwartzman, Olympia Dukakis, Tunde Adebimpe
Writer/director Bob Byington delivers a month in the life of a loser with 7 Chinese Brothers. The title was never explained within the film, and I cared so little for the film I didn’t stick around to hear the explanation at SXSW(the title I am told, comes from a song he likes that played during the credits) . Schwartzman does seem ideally cast for the lead role of Larry, a return to the characters he built a career on (I Heart Huckabees, Rushmore). The character Larry tries to be funny whether at work, with friends, his granny or alone with his dog, however like the film and the characters opposite him, no one is laughing. We have seen characters like this before, struggling in adult hood, embracing childhood mechanisms to fumble their way through life, it isn’t entertaining or interesting and highly overplayed.
Larry steals liquor from his job at Buca each shift by pouring it into his Styrofoam cup then replacing the volume with water. He is fired and before exiting the employee parking lot in his dilapidated Lincoln, key’s the boss’s car. On his way home he stops for an oil change and decided to apply for a job there, he is hired despite his antics during the application process. Larry visits his grandmother (Dukakis) almost daily, but his reasons are not out of love or closeness with her; his best friend Major Norwood (Adebimpe) gets him some of the medication at the senior care facility where his grandmother lives. She refuses to hand over money to Larry, even though she is quite wealthy. Larry has no intention of beginning responsible or career driven.
The comedy in the script is so dry it would almost choke you if you could stay awake.
The film actually has a conversation at the oil change center about whether or not Larry should put stray change from the vehicles on the dash or vacuum around them. The most creative or inspiring element to 7 Chinese Brothers is the fact it’s set in a Quick Lube workplace. Larry should disgust any viewer, whether you are offended by the way he treats his dog (as a pillow or leaving in him the car while he drinks), or the way he treats his grandmother, women, friends, you pick.
The comedy in the script is so dry it would almost choke you if you could stay awake. Byington’s writing doesn’t have Larry learn any valuable lesson, he doesn’t have a character arc turning him into a better person, he simply flows through life with no purpose or ambition. The other element of the film that struck a negative chord was how the one female character, aside from the grandmother, is only written in for the two men to fawn over. While she is given the role of manager at the Quick Lube, she isn’t given much else to do. After unwittingly witnessing and overhearing the director at a local establishment prior to the screening, I wasn’t surprised by his treatment of female characters.
An off putting lazy lead character and an uninspired script make this an uninviting experience.