Betting On Two Pairs Of Filmmaking Brothers Two pairs of filmmaking brothers are both opening movies on the same weekend, and both films are about the awkwardness of growing up. Critic Bob Mondello says Jay and Mark Duplass' Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike share a common sense of humanity.



Betting On Two Pairs Of Filmmaking Brothers

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Two pairs of filmmaking brothers happen to have movies opening on the same weekend. "Jeff, Who Lives At Home" is a comedy by the Duplass brothers. "The Kid with a Bike" is a Belgian slice-of-life drama from the Dardenne brothers. Critic Bob Mondello says the two films are different in tone but are essentially about the same thing: the awkwardness of growing up.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: "The Kid with a Bike" begins with a kid without a bike, 11-year-old Cyril, abandoned in foster care by a dad who left no forwarding address. Cyril figures his father must have cared enough to at least keep his bicycle safe for him, so he returns to their now empty apartment. And when the authorities come to take him back, he tackles a random bystander Samantha and clings to her, wailing that he wants his dad and his bike.


THOMAS DORET: (as Cyril) (French spoken)

CECILE DE FRANCE: (as Samantha) (French spoken)

DORET: (as Cyril) (French spoken)

MONDELLO: Samantha, struck by this desperate little boy, finds out who his dad sold the bike to and buys it back. And when Cyril asks, she even lets him stay with her on weekends. Why? Well, an American filmmaker would feel obligated to give her an explanatory back story, but the Dardenne brothers tend not to explain much in their eloquently unforced pictures. They just let her help this kid, which is not an easy task.


FRANCE: (as Samantha) (French spoken)

DORET: (as Cyril) (French spoken)

MONDELLO: Cyril's a wild child, furious at the world, convinced against all evidence that his father still cares, and when dad disappoints, looking for father figures in terrible places. If you've seen other Dardenne brother films - the ones, say, where a drifter sells his girlfriend's infant on the black market - it will worry you when Cyril falls in with a neighborhood tough. "The Kid with a Bike" may find its writer-director siblings in what is for them an almost sunny frame of mind, but that's hardly the end of Cyril's tough ride through childhood.

The Duplass brothers traffic in more whimsical down-to-earthiness - shambling, squirmy low-budget comedies about the awkward situations that real people find themselves in. Jeff, for instance, the 30-something slacker who still, as the title indicates, lives at home, much to his mother's annoyance.


SUSAN SARANDON: (as Sharon) Hello?

JASON SEGEL: (as Jeff) Mom?

SARANDON: (as Sharon) Jeff.

SEGEL: (as Jeff) Hi.

SARANDON: (as Sharon) You know you're supposed to say hello when you pick up the phone.

SEGEL: (as Jeff) Yeah, I know. I thought that maybe you were somebody else, but you're not.

SARANDON: (as Sharon) What do you do in the basement? You're not cleaning it.

SEGEL: (as Jeff) Do you really want to know? You didn't like it last time we had this conversation.

SARANDON: (as Sharon) OK. No. know what? You're right. I don't. I don't.

SEGEL: (as Jeff) OK.

MONDELLO: Jeff's played by Jason Segel. Susan Sarandon is his mom and Ed Helms, his annoying older sibling, a big-name cast for the Duplass brothers. Their rep comes from flicks so scruffy they're labeled mumblecore. But in "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," they use that same low-rent vibe to get at a kid's need for family and love, much as "Kid with a Bike" does.


SEGEL: (as Jeff) I've been having this really weird dream about dad lately. He says, Pat, what's the greatest day in the history of the world? And I'm like, dad, I don't know. And he just looks at me and he smiles and...

ED HELMS: (as Pat) Today. It's just today.

SEGEL: (as Jeff) How did you know that?

MONDELLO: Brothers just know, right, which may be why these two pairs of filmmaking brothers, Mark and Jay Duplass and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, can bring such warmth to tales of loners: an 11-year-old looking for his bike, and a man-child looking for direction. I'm Bob Mondello.

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