This post may contain spoilers. Read at your own discretion.
Independent film “The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best” is a Ryan O’Nan original, in almost every sense of the word. The little-known actor teams up with Michael Weston of “House” and “Six Feet Under” fame to form the fictitious Brooklyn Brothers, and embark on an adventure to make a mark in the film and music industries. With the help of left-of-centre songwriting and Fisher Price toys, they manage to do so. What is designed as a work of pure fiction crosses over into reality when the partners in music score an album deal as said band. The 2011 writing, acting, and directorial piece is a musical testament to re-capturing lost youth, and the unapologetic pursuit of dreams.
After a few artistic shots of a time-worn guitar case, the film opens quietly in a New York public restroom. Sitting in one of the stalls is Alex (played by Ryan O’Nan), in tears, while grasping a hand-written letter. Kyle (played by Jason Ritter) stands by the door, reminding him that they’re due to perform shortly. Prompted by the urgency in his bandmate’s voice, Alex gathers the strength to deliver for their scheduled set. The scene changes to the dark-lit club, where the two men are onstage, singing. The venue is all but abandoned, save for a figure sitting in the dark, with a crate of objects in front of him. When Kyle decides to bring their current number to a particularly disturbing note, the lurker gathers his belongings to leave in a seemingly frustrated rush. Outside the venue, the clearly delusional Kyle decides to dissolve their duo, citing creative differences. Stunned, Alex finds himself stag, and has to take his depressing lyrics elsewhere, to resort to other means of sustaining his musical career.
In the daytime, Alex underperforms in a low-ranking real-estate company. The night after he is kicked out of the band, he arrives late, much to the chagrin of his boss, Jack (played by Christopher McDonald), and his antagonistic co-worker, Jason (played by Wilmer Valderrama). He continues to be at their mercy when he has to ask Jack for part-time leave in order to play during office hours. It also becomes apparent that Alex is strapped of cash, because he has been unable to close on any deals at work. Jason relishes this, but on this particular day, Alex has had more than enough of his arrogance. He hurls the office’s five-gallon water cooler bottle at Jason’s face, and Jack fires him for his misdeed. Now without work, Alex is left with a lot of time to play his gig.
Meanwhile, Alex frantically tries to salvage the remains of his romantic relationship. He remains glued to his phone, and continues to dial his ex-girlfriend. He leaves a desperate message on her machine, before shattering his phone against the wall of his apartment. The restless night passes, and Alex proceeds to his next gig at a centre for mentally disabled adults — dressed as a “Song Master” moose. It goes well at first, but mid-performance, he punches the face of an audience member who playfully attacks him with a plastic knife. The administration fires him immediately.
Still in full costume, Alex morosely wanders to a park bench, having reached rock bottom. His ex-girlfriend finally returns his numerous calls, and Alex tries to piece bits of his phone back together to hear her. Even with the garbled the reception, the two are able to communicate, somewhat. Just as they are reaching the thick of their conversation, a man (played by Michael Weston) approaches Alex, talking to him loudly, and drowning out the contents of the phone call. Alex asks him to go away, which he does, at first. However, he returns, slightly frustrated at being brushed off the first time. Jim becomes frustrated at not being listened to the first time, and the heated exchange becomes a physical one. The struggle ends abruptly when Alex is knocked out cold.
Alex comes to the next day, startled awake, yet hazy from the circumstances of his re-location. He finds himself back on his couch, with his assailant — the source of his shock back to consciousness — in clear sight. The man introduces himself as Jim, and explains to his shocked victim that he had located the apartment from the driver’s license in Alex’s wallet. Before Alex could begin to process the flagrant violation of privacy, Jim quickly brings up his proposal of a two-week cross-country tour. He had also been kicked out of a band, just as he had booked all the venues. Never mind that they’ve never rehearsed together, nor figured out the stylistics of each other’s musical rhythms. All that is required of Alex is to accompany the very man whose first official interaction with him is a fist to the face. Enraged, he kicks him out of the apartment, and dials his older brother, Brian (played by Andrew McCarthy) to seek his the companionship and counsel for a while. But, just before he heads to Brian’s residence, he decides to seek Jim out, and — with the help of small-town girl Cassidy (played by Arielle Kebbel) — give his insane idea a go.
Equipped with dysfunctional characters with lovable quirks, almost hipster-like popular culture references, and the all-American flavour of the film, “The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best” succeeds in resonating with twenty-somethings who still aren’t afraid to dream. With great music, to boot. Its perky melodies and use of toys for accompaniment vaguely reminds me of a raw version of the lightness of Owl City’s “Fireflies”. One of their more famous tracks, “278 (Airport)”, is available on YouTube. The song properly begins about a minute and fifteen seconds into the video.
Character-wise, the film offers little background context, and throws random factoids for the viewer to catch throughout the 98-minute run. Over time, all the characters become increasingly nuanced, but as a package, are not altogether alarming. This is because many of their idiosyncrasies are relatable. The scruffy Alex finds himself at odds with the conventional definition of adulthood when put up against his conservative born-again Protestant older brother and his catalogue family. The child-like Jim impresses all as an eccentric, yet surprisingly family-oriented and appears to have one of the highest EQs out of the entire group. The apple-cheeked Cassidy dreams of bigger things, yet struggles with her own personal demons. We could easily be any of them.
“The Brooklyn Brothers Beats the Best” is cute, light, and a little nuts. It is very reminiscent of “Once”, with far less females, and much more outward romance… and I mean the type without the “B”. If you don’t find yourself charmed by Alex, Jim, Cassidy, Brian, or Jackson, the film’s original soundtrack will do the trick.