Directed by Jim Sheridan. Starring Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Rated PG. Opens Friday, December 4, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
Thou shalt not covet thy brother's wife, but sometimes thou just can't help tongue-wrestling after some really excellent pot. Brothers has painful things on the brain, but it's the intimate moments that hit deepest in a story that shifts between the war in Afghanistan and pent-up family angst back in the good old U.S. of A.
Watch the trailer for Brothers.
Director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father), has cast his Irish eyes (with X-Men Origins: Wolverine writer David Benioff) on Susanne Bier's 2004 same-named Danish film for a moving, if less gripping, remake. In the Irish-American Cahill clan, Capt. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is a good Marine following in the bootprints of his hard-ass Vietnam-vet father, Hank (Sam Shepard), while Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the younger, ex-con bad brother. Uh-huh, bad brothers always have more fun.
When Sam is presumed dead in Afghanistan, ne'er-do-well Tommy starts hanging at his bro's house, rebuilding the kitchen, cavorting with his nieces (Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare), and getting an itch to cavort with Sam's grief-stricken wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), too. In fact, Sam is a prisoner of Taliban fighters who force him to commit an act so monstrous he returns home with serious psychological baggage.
Sheridan has always had a knack for snagging naturalistic performances, and the grief that plays across Portman's face after the news of Sam's disappearance is raw and palpable. The makeshift-family scenes between her, Gyllenhaal (in a subtle, appealing performance), and the two wonderful child actors have a touching charm. When Sam (played eerily robotically by Maguire), finally pops his cork, the pain doesn't register quite genuinely, but a birthday-party scene powerfully evokes the wounds of generations of messed-up families.