Sophie Goodhart’s comedy finds a new twist on sibling rivalry. Robbie (Adam Scott) is the family’s golden boy, his accomplishments doubly underscored because he is blind. His brother Bill (Nick Kroll) is Robbie’s disgruntled caretaker, doubly annoyed that his efforts merit no larger consideration. Plus, Bill sees that Robbie uses his disability to make himself the center of attention and manipulate others, constantly organizing and “starring in” various charity events designed to feed his ego.
Fed up, Bill takes his sorrows to a local bar, where he meets Rose (Jenny Slate), another depressed self-pitying soul; they discover other commonalities, like their desire to stay home and do nothing. (Rose’s dream job is “to watch TV on behalf of the poor.”) Then Rose signs up to be Robbie’s helpmate; she doesn’t know Robbie is Bill’s brother, nor does Robbie know Bill knows Rose. Soon, both brothers are vying for Rose’s affections, and not one of these three emotionally stunted folks is managing it well.
Brother frequently hits the sweet spots of festival-friendly indie comedies, balancing frustration and sweetness. And it challenges our notion to assign “hero” status to the physically disabled: Robbie gets to be as flawed as anybody else, without being vilified or pitied. The film doesn’t land all the jokes — though the cast is game — and too many not-so-believable plot twists eventual drain some the energy from the film’s offbeat premise.