A lot of perfectly good film show their cards early, establish a unique premise and let the audience explore a topic at a leisurely pace, without much in terms of surprise. this film is not one of those films.
Larry (Jason Schwartzman) is a slacker with little ambition. He works a menial job at the oil change garage. He has his dog. He is joined by his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis). His friend Major Norwood gets him his drugs.It's Schwartzman doing his slacker thing. For his fans, this may be interesting. Indie filmmaker Robert Byington is not strictly mumblecore. His dialog is not mumble but it has much of the indie sensibilities. In the end, there isn't much going on with this character. It's hard to tell if he cares or is he just scared like when he runs out on a sure thing with a girl. It makes it hard to care about him.
7 Chinese Brothers is a song by REM. It is also an ultra low budget independent film directed by Bob Byington. Jason Schwarztman plays Larry, a lazy, lying slacker always playing stupid pranks and who drinks too much from a Styrofoam cup to make out he is not an alcoholic.At the beginning of the film we seem him get fired from job for stealing liquor from the bar. His only friend is a nurse who supplies him with stolen pills and the nurse looks after Larry's grandmother at the nursing home. His time with his grandmother is the only time he has a grown up conversation. Apart from his grandmother his dog is the only other thing he cares about.There is little plot to this movie. Larry gets a job at a garage valeting cars. His co-workers tell him to steal loose change. He takes a shine to his female boss, he gets fired because his boss finds out that he was fired from his previous job for stealing. In fact the same guy owned both the places he gets fired from. His grandmother dies, he plays stupid pranks to antagonise people like keying cars or throwing his hat on passing cars.Somewhere along the line Larry grows up a little. Schwarztman plays Larry with a deadpan, downbeat comic charm. He is the only thing that keeps the film going. There is very little that happens in this offbeat film that feels long even though it is only 75 minutes long.
Bob Byington's 7 Chinese Brothers is less a film and more an idea, a thought, or even a potential TV show pilot. At seventy-one minutes in length, it's a film that practically questions what can be done with a film that has no cogent plot and relies on one simple, yet complex, character and his circumstances, most of which caused by his obnoxious attitude or his general indifference. On that basis alone, the film shouldn't be half as successful as it is, but through its feet-dragging narrative, practically impulsive structure, and low stakes, I did admittedly enjoy this film.This film isn't laugh out loud funny, nor is it particularly compelling or insightful. It gives us Larry (Jason Schwartzman), a man evidently in his early thirties, living alone with his bulldog, who gets fired from his restaurant job minutes into the film for sneaking drinks at the bar. He wanders over to Quick Lube for an oil change, asks the cute manager girl for an application, and soon enough, he's working for an incorrigible man named Jimmy (Jimmy Gonzales), who encourages him to steal any spare change out of customers' vehicles. On top of all that, he's constantly going back and forth to the nursing home to visit his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis), who remains his last living relative, in addition to seeing his friend Major Norwood (Tunde Adebimpe).Larry is the kind of character only Jason Schwartzman could play to great effect, for he conveys multiple different feelings with nearly every line or facial expression he conjures up. Larry is also the kind of character that acts like he has everything under control and that his cleverness and falsified feelings of self-worth will carry him to the places he needs to be. The problem is Larry really isn't half as good as he thinks he is, and this results for a lot of awkward scenarios thanks to Larry's random jokes/physical comedy and a multitude of impulsive, inappropriate actions that have consequences on his part.Schwartzman has to carry a lion's weight of Byington's film on his back, and with that, succeeds because without a dynamic screen presence, 7 Chinese Brothers could've fallen apart in its first few minutes. But because Byington keeps the film moving, through fluid scenes that reflect humor and believable, albeit rather light, drama and never stalls into romantic or comedic clichés, the film, in turn, keeps moving and assembling a fun and breezy personality.I have no idea what relevance the title has towards the story, nor can I figure out the takeaway from this film other than life can pass you by if you think you're funnier and more important than you actually are. However, through very little in the way narrative structure and flair and glamour, Byington has made 7 Chinese Brothers work almost solely on the charisma and dynamic talents of his leading actor, in addition to making this a largely fun, project. At the end of it all, I can admire that.Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Olympia Dukakis, Tunde Adebimpe, and Jimmy Gonzales. Directed by: Bob Byington.
Absolutely charming and hilarious. Jason Schwartzman is pitch perfect as Larry, a slacker who gets fired from his job in a restaurant at the beginning of the film, sipping through a straw from his Big Gulp. Schwartzman isn't the only tour de force in the film, his dog Arrow makes the perfect comedic counterpart, exasperated and non-plussed at many of Larry's diatribes and philosophies. Bob Byington deserves a lot of credit as well, his previous film Somebody Up There Likes Me is equally hilarious, but 7 Chinese Brothers is less surreal and more rooted in character and pathos. 7CB has lots of mainstream appeal and will undoubtedly be listed in with other iconic Schartzman roles. 7CB is always surprising, always pushing at the edges of conventional narratives. The film works so well because it is coming from a very unique voice of storytelling and sense of humor. It's exciting to see a film come out like this and almost instantly feel like a comedy classic. Do yourself a favor and get a big gulp of 7 Chinese Brothers.