Brothers (two versions). (Denmark 2004 117 min. dir: Susanne Bier, cast: Ulrich Thomsen, Connie Nielsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas.USA 2009 105.min, dir: Jim Sheridan, cast: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal).
The most amazing fact about Brothers is that it was made twice. Once might have been more than enough. There is an old Hollywood story about the producer and the writer alone in the desert dying of thirst. They spot a cold clear jar of water. The writer says, ‘Shall we drink it?’ The producer says, “let’s piss in it first.”
Susanne Bier’s Brothers is a modest movie about the romantic yearnings of two people when one happens to be the brother of the other’s husband. The husband has conveniently been declared dead on an Afghani war mission. But he is really being held captive and we know he will return.
It’s a good movie (which is why it is included in MovieWithMe, we only review the ones we like). But it is plot driven rather than character driven. Things have to happen to push it forward, and the audience knows where it is headed. Plot driven movies are like building a fence around the property and thinking what kind of house you will put in the middle.
Taking this modest house and remodeling it so Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman can live in it ruins the architecture. To begin with, Tobey Maguire has no sex appeal. The Muppet of Spiderman is not a leading man. Natalie Portman has some heat with Jake Gyllenhaal, so did she marry Tobey?
Jim Sheridan is a very talented director, up there with Susanne Bier in all respects except one: he’s working from a script that has been remodeled like the house to suit the new star tenants. No subtlety is allowed. Many of the scenes are exactly alike, but the remake doesn’t play like the original. When the military messengers come to inform the wife that her husband is dead, Susanne Bier gets to do it almost without dialogue.
Jim Sheridan’s version is more concerned with the two cute, precocious little girls who open the door for the soldiers. Everybody has to talk and explain. I guess the producers wanted to make sure they milked every emotion from wife to children. Did I say milk? I started this review talking about a joke with water. Choose your liquid but don’t drink the remake. Somebody has pissed in it.