The Sisters Brothers Reviews
An extremely engaging anti-Western featuring fantastic performances from John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed is slightly marred by an anti-climactic yet still unexpected ending. Up until then, I loved its subversiveness, the beautiful cinematography and score, and the bursts of tragedy erupting from its often comical tone. A simple tale of two hitmen charged with killing a gentle chemist who has invented a new way to pan for gold, the film finds its beauty in little details such as when Reilly uses a toothbrush or flushes a toilet for the first time. Bonus points for casting the great Alison Tolman, a vividly hardened Carol Kane, and especially trans actor Rebecca Root as a nefarious town owner. I'm especially proud that Root plays a cis female. More talented trans actors like her should get cast in roles which have nothing to do with gender identity. That it happens in the most patriarchal of genres, the western, speaks volumes about this film. There's also an unexplored hint of a gay relationship, which gives the movie a sense of unfulfilled longing. Each character seems to want something they can never have. It's a subtle but lovely undertone which gives this often goofy film a little depth. Jacques Audiard (A PROPHET, RUST AND BONE) makes his English language debut here and has a great feel for quirky interactions and the loopy storytelling at play. It's the BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID of its time...but instead of going out with a bang, it does so with a beautiful whimper. Flaws and all, it's one of the best films of the year.
The Sisters Brothers
Audiard's cowboy duel is both raunchy and smart. After many numbers of feeble attempts of different makers trying to achieve the perfect western drama, Audiard seems to have got his intentions closest to the perfect one. And mind you, it is not for his gut-wrenching man-ly inedible sequences or an Eastwood-y slickness but his surprising delight of weaving the entire script from a kid's textbook morale tale. Very few of such genre films offers you a soothing final chapter to invest all your chips in. And even though there is a lot of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid in it, this apotheosis of brotherhood equation has its own rhythm. And is it is entitled to be, the story revolves around two brothers hunting down for their livelihood that is more likely to be ignited not from the necessity but passion.
And the justified background story to their trajectory is a cherry on top of the journey that they go through. Crossing around borders, woods, rivers and mountains, neither the high pitched dramatic sequences nor tiny notorious tactics that their nature is brimmed of, is what gives them a deeper cut. The three dimensional perspective is endeavored by the negative and edgy bits of it. Like when Reilly lies blatantly to Phoenix to get an upper hand on an argument. On the opposite side of the coin, if Reilly and Phoenix are sharing an already cemented bond, Gyllenhaal and Ahmed gets to start from the scratch.
Throughout the course of their role, a genuinely moving procedure through which they connect with each other, is the highlight of it, no matter how much their opinions and agendas keep evolving. Audiard has managed to capture the carefree lifestyle of the people living in that era through humor, like when a spider gets inside Reilly's mouth or the usual gags involving a drunken bar fight; which to be honest is getting too Hollywood. On performance, Gyllenhaal makes sure in initial stages itself, that you feel the attraction and compassion of his towards Ahmed in his first meeting, where he too has kept his promises till the end.
Surprisingly, Phoenix has a comical and a bit straightforward role to portray, stretching his muscles as much as he can in the allotted narrow range, he fails to overpower other actors on screen. And riding at the front is Reilly as a complex and morally challenged elder brother of an irresponsible guy, he portrays a similar overprotective role to the film itself as whenever the storytelling gets damp, he pulls it out right with his bare hands.
If chugging out the last act, it would have been your usual self discovering journey that we have all been through plenty of times in a movie. But for a brief period of time where all these lead characters share a similar interest, something magical sparks out from the screen just like something glossy invaluable material bubbles up from the water. And circling the entire sub-plots of these characters within one strike, is just a fine example of writing that The Sisters Brothers shares with you.
"I don't know...three or four days?"
"Don't you find that strange?"
The Sisters Brothers is both a modern western that pays plenty of homage to the classics of the genre. It isn't what you expect and not always what you hoped it might be, but it consistently does whatever the hell it wants and one can't help but to appreciate it for exactly that. In other words, The Sisters Brothers is wholly its own thing and it's very up front about this fact with an opening scene that is both startling, starkly aloof, and perplexing in the most intriguing of ways. While it feels natural to be tepid in the opening twenty or so minutes as exposition is avoided in favor of the audience putting the pieces together themselves it is once director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone) begins to parallel the arcs of our titular characters as played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix with that of Jake Gyllenhaal's John Morris and Riz Ahmed's Hermann Kermit Warm that things really get rolling.
It's always nice to see a movie when, in general, you see so many movies and think you know where it's likely going only to have it continually go in a different, but completely logical-and natural-feeling-direction. Phoenix and Gyllenhaal give two very distinct, but vastly different performances for two characters that are more similar than they might like to admit even if they come to recognize as much. Gyllenhaal's accent is especially noteworthy. Ahmed's interpretation of Warm is a matter of perspective and he plays this advantage to the hilt given the ultimate course the actions take. It is Reilly who steals the show though, serving as a throughline of steadfastness in doing something despite the difficulties his brother provides and the endless delays he takes the blame for all in order to achieve a success he doesn't seem to necessarily agree would define the word "success". It's a wonderful, well-rounded performance that lends the final scene of the film a sense of near-perfection; capturing a small truth of life we don't often recognize or discuss and painting a two-hour portrait with it.
Also, not exactly Bone Tomahawk brutal, but still BRU-TAL with a capital B.