I saw the new film “Brothers” today at the Capitol Theatre. I was eagerly anticipating it mostly because I was shocked they were already remaking Susanne Biers fantastic Danish film Brødre from 2004. The American version stars Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tobey Maguire.
But most American’s haven’t seen it I’m sure, and the storyline seems perfectly fitting for a US mainstream audience.
The storyline was the same. A marine has to leave his wife and kids to go fight in Afghanistan. His helicopter crashes and he’s reported dead back home and they even have a funeral. At that point, the marine’s brother, who just got out of jail, steps in to take care of the kids and keep his wife company. Naturally of course, he gets a little too close and feelings start to develop between the two. Spoiler alert (not really, this is part of any synopsis) the marine is not dead, but a held captive by the Taliban. He does some crazy shit to get out of there and eventually makes his way back to the states to reunite with his wife and family. But of course, drama ensues as he suspects infidelity and doesn’t trust his ex con brother.
The differences are subtle, but in Brødre, Susanne Bier made me feel shaken and nervous and tense the whole time. It grabbed me and didn’t let go. Jim Sheridan’s Brothers on the other hand felt cliche, overly dramatic, forced, and unrealistic. Even though it was the same story. Also, the three main characters are all so young and it still feels like a mix of Spider Man, Donnie Darko, and Sam from Garden State. They were playing very grown up roles and it seemed like they were “playing house” as this review put it.
Maybe it’s just me, but watching Tobey Maguire is a joke. He’s so flat with his lines and then when he has his “scenes” where he’s full of rage is hard to believe. Maybe if I hadn’t seen the original, I wouldn’t have even noticed. But Ulrich Thomsen, who played the same character in Brødre (and was amazing in Dogme 95 classic Festen as well) was so much more convincing. The anguish, despair, and guilt felt much more authentic than Tobey Maguire’s “acting class” anger scene.
Natalie Portman, who I like generally, was alright as the wife. But for some reason the American film made her feel like a cliche housewife. She’s actually pretty convincing when she cries (she made me cry in Garden State) and she’s a likable character. Same with Jake Gyllenhaal, I thought he was good as the other brother. If anything, he may have added a little extra with his own goofy personality and made the character TOO likable.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, so I’ll have to go back and rewatch it. If I recall, it didn’t feature pop songs, a resounding score of heartfelt cinematic music, or name dropping of Nsync or Snoop Dogg! To sum it up, the Danish orginal was raw, intense, and gritty. This one was polished, poppy, and a little soft. If you’re gonna see one, definitely see the original.