'My Idiot Brother' a festival favorite

Jan 21 2011 - 1:01pm

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Paul Rudd stars in "My Idiot Brother," directed by Jesse Peretz.
Jesse Peretz
Paul Rudd stars in "My Idiot Brother," directed by Jesse Peretz.
Jesse Peretz

Director Jesse Peretz isn't worried about how to get his film, "My Idiot Brother," noticed at Sundance.

Every seat at all four Sundance Film Festival screenings is sold out. That's seats for two screenings in the festival's largest venue, the Eccles Theatre (1,400 seats); one at Salt Lake City's Tower Theater (480 seats); and one at Peery's Egyptian Theater (800 seats).

And at least one online entertainment writer has singled out "My Idiot Brother" as his pick for first film to get a distribution deal.

"The weight of expectations is definitely starting to stress me out," said Peretz, 42, calling from a studio in New York City. "I'm incredibly happy for the movie, and happy people are taking an interest in it. I just hope it lives up to the hype."

"My Idiot Brother" stars a bearded Paul Rudd as Ned, the laid-back, good-hearted brother of three high-achieving sisters, who constantly end up disrupting their own lives to save their brother from himself.

Elizabeth Banks plays sister Miranda, a career-driven journalist. Zoey Deschanel plays Natalie, an artistic hipster whose flakiness and lies are keeping her from having a stable, rewarding life. Emily Mortimer plays Liz, a mom so worried about having the perfect life and children, she can't see that her marriage is failing.

The script is by Peretz's sister, Evgenia Peretz, and her husband, David Schisgall.

"Paul and I did another movie, 'The Chateau,' and I had always been such a fan of his work, and excited to see him break out the past few years," Jesse Peretz said. "I wanted to work with him, and my sister and I tossed around ideas. We particularly wanted to write about things people our age were going through. We are two of four siblings, and we wanted to write about adult sibling relationships.

"We came up with the concept of this protagonist, thrusting himself into the very different worlds of his three type-A sisters."

Peretz said all three sisters are based, in part, on his journalist sister, who dreamed of being a screenwriter, but moved on to magazine Vanity Fair, where she has worked for about 15 years.

"I would say all writers draw on autobiographical details here and there, but no, I am not the idiot brother," Peretz said, with a laugh.

(In fact, Peretz was an alternative rocker. He was the original bassist for The Lemonheads, then he directed music videos. His father, Marty Peretz, is publisher of The New Republic.)

Ned, in his own dysfunctionally optimistic way, ends up changing all three sisters' lives in a positive way. Peretz said Rudd is perfect in the role.

"Paul is a really phenomenal actor," he said. "It's very easy for people to pigeonhole an actor as one character, and Paul fell into the clean-cut nice-guy role. He plays the character so well, he got a run of being cast in that kind of role."

Ned is nice, but not clean-cut.

"He is genuinely nice, in an awesome way, but he's not tortured," Peretz said, of the character. "He is dancing to his own drummer. He is not conventional at all.

"I think Paul could play any complex character Philip Seymour Hoffman could play, and I say that as the ultimate fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman."

Peretz said he feels lucky his old friend Rudd could fit the film into his schedule.

"He's been in a whole slew of hugely successful Judd Apatow movies, so I'm not sure this film will rock his world, but I'm very excited. I hope the movie plays well to Sundance audiences, and gets picked up by a distributor who is really excited to release it the right way, to give it its best shot at finding an audience."

* "My Idiot Brother" (95 minutes, USA), 6:30 p.m. Monday. Sold out; wait list only.

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