“7 Chinese Brothers” begins its theatrical run in Houston tomorrow at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park.
Larry (Jason Schwartzman) has become stuck in his everyday life. He drinks heavily on a daily basis and doesn’t seem to take anything seriously. After losing his job, he finds another one the same day at a car maintenance shop called Quick Lube. He shows slight adoration towards his new manager Lupe (Eleanore Pienta), gets threatened by the Quick Lube floorman Jimmy (Jimmy Gonzales) and has kind of a bitter rivalry with former co-worker Don (Jonathan Togo).
His only surviving relative is his wealthy grandmother (played by Olympia Dukakis) whom he visits regularly and is typically conversational with Major Norwood (Tunde Adebimpe); a suave orderly at his grandmother’s retirement home. Larry drifts through life without a care in the world and really only seems to want to be around his french bulldog Arrow (Schwartzman’s actual pet).
“7 Chinese Brothers” is extremely unusual and fairly peculiar when it comes to comedic films. Imagine yourself as a fly on the wall of Larry’s life as you basically bear witness to Larry’s lonely existence. At the heart of the film is this companionship between Larry and his dog and it genuinely feels like it’s the two of them against the world. However Larry seems to purposely shut himself out from everyone else around him. He’s very cold and sarcastic and consistently cracks jokes at the expense of others; even his grandmother seems to think he only visits when he wants something.
Larry seems entirely unaffected by the factors of his life. He is completely devoid of emotion and seems content with the simple path he has chosen. He has no intention of introducing anything that would complicate his life. Everyone in the film seems very disillusioned with what life has become. They all have this cold and one-sided nature that makes each individual seem rather unpleasant to be around. You’re never really given the chance to enjoy any of the characters because of this. Nobody is likable or eccentric in any capacity. The only character who is really true to himself is Larry’s dog, who just sleeps all day and eats human food.
This is the type of film that wouldn’t really qualify as entertainment. “7 Chinese Brothers” is more of an observation or a statement about the quality of life. Larry is pretty overbearing at times with his depressing personality. He’s immature, uncaring, and self-absorbed. Nobody else is around him all day, but the viewer is forced to be. The comedy written and directed by Bob Byington doesn’t ever make you laugh out loud or sympathize with anyone. It reveals how sad one person’s journey in life really is.
People don’t always try to better themselves, aspire to do something great with their lives, or leave a long lasting impression on those around them. “7 Chinese Brothers” portrays what being stuck in a rut while also being absolutely okay with that is like. This film will leave you with a ton of questions like how the title relates to the film in the slightest, but it does deserve credit for including a character that does the opposite of what you’ve come to expect in not only film but life itself. Unfortunately Larry’s lack of effort ultimately translates into the enjoyment aspect of the film resulting in the viewer feeling like Larry’s dog Arrow: lethargic and passive to the world around them.