'7 Chinese Brothers': SXSW Review
Jason Schwartzman is a slacker among people with little tolerance for no-goodniks.
Born a decade or two too late to enjoy the famously laid-back Austin that was once so accommodating of slackers, 30-something Larry nevertheless refuses to sacrifice much to the world of work. Fired from one lousy gig after another, he spends most of his time in a soused, one-sided conversation with his tolerant pug or scoring pills from a buddy at his grandmother's nursing home. His life might be a drag were it not brought to the screen with such dry charm by Jason Schwartzman, who smarms his way through Bob Byington's very funny 7 Chinese Brothers as if the pic had been drawn up especially for him. Substantially more accessible than Byington's previous SXSW offering, Somebody Up There Likes Me, the small-stakes comedy has art house appeal beyond the fest circuit.
Larry's grandma (Olympia Dukakis) enjoys his company well enough, but she's not blind to the fact that his visits grow more frequent when he needs money. She gets more consistent attention from one of her home's nurses, Norwood (TV on the Radio singer Tunde Adebimpe, more of a cipher here than in previous acting gigs like Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married), who after work goes to bars with Larry to pick up women.
But Larry lacks the necessary ambition to be a pick-up artist, or to do much of anything else. In his half-hearted effort to get a job at a Quick Lube, he won't even finish the application. He gets the job anyway, and to his surprise finds he enjoys it enough that he doesn't want to get fired.
If this isn't enough drama for you, consider that Larry keyed the car of a co-worker at his last place of employment, causing that meathead and his former boss to vaguely plot revenge.
Byington's two-chuckle-a-minute script is mostly interested in Larry's constant, evasive patter, which continues whether the target of his words appears to care what he's saying or not. (The dog, Arrow, at least raises his eyebrows from time to time, which is more than some people do.) The spiel seems to work at times on Lupe (Eleanore Pienta), an attractive supervisor who's probably a big part of why Larry likes going to work. But whether she buys what he's selling or not, Schwartzman's fans will love the opportunity to watch him spin his wheels.
Production companies: Faliro House, 8750 Films
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Tunde Adebimpe, Eleanore Pienta, Stephen Root, Olympia Dukakis
Director-Screenwriter: Bob Byington
Producers: Molly Christie Benson, Seana Flanagan, Nancy Schafer
Executive producers: Christos Konstantakopoulos, Kevin Corrigan
Director of photography: Adam Ginsberg
Production designer: Jake Kuykendall
Costume designer: Lily Walker
Editor: Leah Marino
Music: Chris Baio
Casting director: Jeanne McCarthy
Sales: Liesl Copland, WME; Kevin Iwashina, Preferred Content
No rating, 75 minutes