by Jaime Mishkin
“The Brooklyn Brothers”–the lead characters of “Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best”–are not brothers. They are not from Brooklyn, and they are not out to beat anyone in particular. They are, rather, two strangers who come together under unusual circumstances one day in a park, where Alex (Ryan O’Nan) is sitting, dejected, in a pink moose costume.
O’Nan stars as Alex, a twenty-something musician out of luck, a band, a job and a girlfriend. Though O’Nan has written for TV series like MTV’S “Skins,” this is his first time writing, directing, acting and playing music in a film at the same time.
“It was so much fun. As a writer, you make up this world, and you think, ‘Oh God, should I act in something I’ve written?’ There’s definitey something funny about being able to step into that world,” said O’Nan, describing the experience.
Michael Weston, most known for his work on Fox’s “House” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” plays Jim, a complexly childlike man from New Jersey who lives in his grandfather’s house and is struggling to make it as a musician. He lives in a world of toy-keyboards and trumpets, and aspires to create something completely his own. He, like Alex, has been kicked out of his band. But unlike Alex, he has a plan.
His plan is to embark on a cross-country musical tour to ultimately arrive at a Battle of the Bands competition in Los Angeles. Jim proposes this idea to Alex, in hopes that he will join him on this adventure. Though skeptical, Alex agrees with him on a whim and we, the audience, join them, unsure (though hopeful) of where it will go.
Headed out in Jim’s grandpa’s rundown brown sedan, Alex and Jim play their instruments together for the first time. The combination of Alex’s acoustic guitar with Jim’s innocent melodies on his toy instruments instantly adds an element of innocence and joy. In that moment, Jim and Alex connect not only with each other, but with the audience. The melodies appear to be positive, but are underscored by a melancholic tone and poignant lyrics. O’Nan draws influence from many 80’s bands, citing The Cure, New Order, The Smiths and Cyndi Lauper as some of his greatest musical influences. Weston adds O’Nan as one of his influences, too.
The rawest parts of the film take place in between gigs, on the road, with the characters squeezed into the confines of their small car. We get to know them as they get to know each other–and as they get to know themselves. O’Nan gained a lot from the filming process, recounting the eighteen days it took to make the movie “so swiftly…with pure passion and heart, [thrusting myself] into it.”
Shots of cars, highways and city lights weave themselves into many scenes, with glances out the window into the distance. They’re just three people on an escape from the boredom of their lives, uncertain of what will come next.
“[The movie] offers this feeling to live, [unafraid] to do your thing and fall on your butt and fail and still get back up on your feet,” said Weston.
Artfully, “Brooklyn Brothers Beats the Rest” shows us the beauty in uncertainty and in failure. Its music and humor guide the movie; its honesty binds it all together and lets us know that everything going to be all right.
Jaime Mishkin is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.