Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Mark and Jay Duplass made this tragicomedy over four years ago, right after completing the fantastic "BAGHEAD", and then they put it to the side once they started to field more Hollywood interest for their theater of the absurd and the true. They made "CYRUS", and "JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME", and lo, it was good. People began to talk about these directors as being able documenters of a certain time, place and person. Less imaginative critics, while loving their work (just about everyone does), would call them "slacker comedies", forgetting that their films are also usually quite harsh in shining a light on deep, raw human emotion. And yeah, they're also frequently hilarious while being jarring and discomforting. 

"THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON" poked its head out again in theaters just a few months ago, and it's now on DVD and streaming. It's right in there with their best work. Two estranged brothers reunite at their mom's house for one's birthday, and immediately set to revisiting an aborted, obsessive "contest" they'd tried to finish while teenagers that they called the Do-Deca-Pentathlon. It's clear that there's just a ton of unresolved issues between these two, and it comes out in unhealthy competition in just about every area: swimming, eating, running, laser tag, ping-pong, long jump, arm wrestling and so on. One brother, who in addition to being overweight has obvious pent-up, unresolved residual effects from a bad childhood, also thankfully (for him) has a loving wife who's trying to protect him from him own worst competitive instincts – to no avail, I might add. His attempts to evade her, and complete the series of "events", is high comedy. The other brother is presented, at least initially, as a pot-smoking, gambling ne'er do well who eggs him on, but like other Duplass films, you find that certain harsh characters end up not being quite what you thought at the outset.

I'd hate to think that people might miss this small gem because of its poor distribution and relatively low profile. Let it be said here that your 80 minutes are very well spent with this film.