The man-child: a staple character for modern comedy and notoriously known for being played one-note. They get the laugh they get out.
But turning the lovable goofball or zoned-out knucklehead into something more is no easy task—which makes Paul Rudd's work in Our Idiot Brother that much more impressive. Rudd's Earth-friendly farmer Ned (the closest thing to a new Lebowski we've seen since the original) finds himself down on his luck after being entrapped by a police officer looking for pot. After a stint in jail he abandons his rural hippie commune for the big city to take shelter with his three sisters. Unfortunately for Ned his three siblings Liz (Emily Mortimer) Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) are as equally displaced and confused from the ebb and flow of life—albeit with severely different perspectives of the world.
Liz struggles to put her kid in private school and keep her marriage to documentary filmmaker/scumbag Dylan (Steve Coogan) intact. Miranda claws her way to the top of Vanity Fair's editorial staff and shuns her flirtatious neighbor (Adam Scott). Natalie stresses over her commitment issues with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) leaving little time or patience for Ned's bumbling antics. Sound like a lot of plot? While the manic lives of Ned's sisters click symbolically with his journey to get back on his feet it makes for one sporadic narrative.
Like a series of vignettes Our Idiot Brother never gels but when director Jesse Peretz finds a moment of unadulterated Nedisms to throw up on screen the movie hits big. Whether it's Ned teaching his nephew how to fight accidentally romancing his sister's interview subject or infiltrating his ex-girlfriend's house to steal his dog Willie Nelson the movie relies heavily on Ned's antics and its smart to do so. But thin throughlines for its supporting don't hold a candle to Rudd doing his thing.
And its a testament to Rudd's versatility—the man has done everything from Shakespeare and raunchy Judd Apatow comedies after all—that makes the movie watchable. Rudd gives dimensionality to his nincompoop character allowing darker emotions to creep in when necessary. There's a point in the film when Ned gives up fighting for his type-A sisters' affection and it's some of the best material Rudd's ever delivered. But like one of Ned's lit joints Our Idiot Brother can quickly fizzle out leading to plodding plot twists and sentimental conclusions. Mortimer Banks and Deschanel are great actresses—here they drift through their scenes and come out in the end changed. Because they have to.
Our Idiot Brother tries to take the Apatow model to the indie scene and comes through with so-so results. Only Rudd's able to find something to latch on to to build upon to warm up to. In an unexpected twist it's the man-child who seems the most grown up.
It’s not easy to become an icon, but Jon Hamm seems to have done it. His role as Don Draper on Mad Men is easily one of the most recognizable and influential characters of the new millennium, and a far classier candidate for the position than his rival Snooki. It’s a role that has become a fashion symbol, a new icon of masculinity, and has garnered both critical and popular acclaim. But despite all of this and three years of nominations, Hamm has never won an Emmy.
This discrepancy may reflect the unique position that Mad Men holds on television. They show has become something of a cultural phenomenon, inspiring the return of 60’s chic and a number of copycat series, from The Playboy Club to Pan Am. But it’s still not a highly watched show, averaging under 3 million viewers an episode. Despite the cultural buzz surrounding it, more people talk about watching Mad Men than actually watch it. Hamm may be getting the short end of the stick, because people are more aware of the idea of the character than of Hamm’s actual performance on the show.
While Draper’s generally presented as a charming cad, Hamm does a skillful job balancing a character who walks the line between sympathetic and unsympathetic -- making him likable and still difficult to like. If your desire to slap some sense into a character is a metric of how good a job the actor is doing, than forget an Emmy, Hamm deserves a golden plaque on the moon by this point. Last season was among Hamm’s best performances, with Don Draper’s divorce serving as an opportunity to explore the character in a new context. And Season Four also included the series’ current highlight, 'The Suitcase,' an episode which was basically a forty-minute showcase for Hamm and Elizabeth Moss to act their well-tailored and stylish pants off. (That, and stage an old man fight.)
Of course, Hamm has faced stiff competition for the Emmy. He’s lost three straight years of nominations to Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, an actor who certainly deserves the honor for his fabulous work. But at this point, giving Cranston another win for the same role seems a tad redundant. Why not share the love, and recognize another deserving actor this year? If not for his formidable acting talent, than at least for the fact that he looks like a cartoon pilot. Besides, while you might take Mad Men’s quality for granted now, disputes with AMC may kill the show before its time. If the Academy has been waiting to honor Hamm, there’s not going to be a better time.
Emmys 2011: Making a Case for Elisabeth Moss
Emmys 2011: Making a Case for Boardwalk Empire
Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, here's a first look at the scantly-clad and soft-focused world of new NBC series The Playboy Club. The sixties-set series will follow the employees of the famous Chicago club. The series is already garnering some controversy, unsurprisingly, and the NBC affiliate in Utah refuses to air the show. So far, The Playboy Club looks pretty tame by HBO standards, and this poster emphasizes the nostalgic over the sultry. I've seen skimpier outfits on the subway.
The Playboy Club stars Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton, Leah Renee, and Eddie Cibrian as the poor man's Don Draper. The show hops onto your TV set September 19. We're only watching it for the articles, we swear.