Editor’s Notes: 7 Chinese Brothers is currently out in limited theatrical release.
Larry is one of those special characters that is only likable in movies, the kind that if we ran into in real life we’d cross the street. He’s abrasive and quirky, seething with sarcasm and bursting with angst. If you tell him to turn down his personality a bit, he’ll tell you a joke about George Bush at a library trying to order a burger, fries and a coke. In the real world, we’d avoid Larry like the plague, and dread any days we’d have to work with or see him. As played by Jason Schwartzman, he is our hero and the bonafide spokesman for the everyday misfit.
Written and directed by Bob Byington, 7 Chinese Brothers is destined to go down as one of the hidden gems of 2015 . . .
Written and directed by Bob Byington, 7 Chinese Brothers is destined to go down as one of the hidden gems of 2015, though it it safe to say that this film isn’t for everyone. Schwartzman has made quite a successful and eclectic career out of playing acrid human beings, and Larry just may be the hardest pill he’s requested his audience to swallow. Nevertheless, fans of the actor will find much to love in what Byington has written: a film that features the perfect blend of wacky comedy and moving drama.
We first meet Larry as he’s being fired from an Italian bar and grill. Larry takes the news well enough, denying everything and pointing out how much of a bozo one of his coworkers is. On the way out he grabs a bottle of whiskey and keys said bozo’s car. Larry spends most of his days in a constant state of inebriation, filling a gas station styrofoam cup up mostly with ice and topping the rest off with booze. Larry spends his days between hanging out with his adorable dog, Arrow (Schwartzman’s real-life french bulldog) and his grandmother. Olympia Dukakis plays the grandmother, by the way, and she is simultaneously lovely and hilarious.
Sporting an economic runtime of 76 minutes, 7 Chinese Brothers has a charmingly loose structure. Like its protagonist, it wanders where it pleases . . .
Sporting an economic runtime of 76 minutes, 7 Chinese Brothers has a charmingly loose structure. Like its protagonist, it wanders where it pleases, but never to anything dull, and possess incredible dramatic depth, tragedy even, lurking beneath its comedic exterior. Byrington stuffs his script with moment after moment of laugh-out-loud quips, but his best weapon is his gift at subtlety. Some of the film’s best moments involve emotions and feelings that aren’t spoken. Byrington conjures up an eclectic cast of supporting characters, and Larry’s interactions with them brilliantly peel back the layers to what could have easily been a generic slacker character. 7 Chinese Brothers is simultaneously an uproarious comedic achievement and a quietly brilliant dramatic achievement.
7 Chinese Brothers is simultaneously an uproarious comedic achievement and a quietly brilliant dramatic achievement.