The Do-Deca-Pentathlon


The ubiquitous Duplass brothers, those micro godheads of post-mumble indies, stoke the furnace of sibling tension in this single-minded but fascinating discomfiture comedy, a kind of secret twin study of brothers locked in neurotic battle. Mark (Steve Zissis) is a chubby family man heading to his mother’s house for his birthday; older brother Jeremy (Mark Kelly) is a poker-tourney bachelor beast arriving uninvited, and against everyone’s better judgment, the two launch into a rematch of the childish who’s-best? 25-event competition that estranged them permanently in high school. The Duplasses, maybe working through their own brotherly shit, craft this ordeal sneakily—the put-upon teddy bear dad slowly uncorks into a never-say-die juggernaut while the scumbag brother begins to grow up, even as the two must conspire to keep the Olympics a secret from Mark’s wary and sometimes terrified wife (Jennifer Lafleur). Uncompromising in its way, the film’s portrait of codependent compulsion is so organically conceived, you start to smell the sulfur of traumatized childhood, no exposition needed. (The boys’ absent father is barely mentioned.) The cast begins in that mumblecore mode of quietly overreacting to everything, but once the testosterone starts oozing, the characters jump out into four substantial dimensions. Michael Atkinson