Director Sophie Goodhart has a sister with MS and a willingness to tell the ugly truth: that as uncouth as it may be, sometimes we’re jealous of people with disabilities. They’re lauded for their bravery and showered with attention, and every one of their accomplishments is framed all the more positively in light of their disability.
In 2001, Goodhart channeled these feelings into a script for a short film called My Blind Brother, starring Tony Hale, and it’s taken all this time to hustle that short into her first feature length, but here it is, in all its unflinching, unpolitically correct glory.
Directing from her own script, Goodhart introduces us to two siblings, Bill and Robbie. Robbie (Adam Scott) is the blind brother, an athlete who raises money for visually-impaired children with various athletic feats. His brother Bill (Nick Kroll) is his virtual guide dog, running every race right beside him, keeping him out of harm’s way, while receiving absolutely none of the glory. Our expectations are reversed when the disabled saint actually turns out to be a bit of a prick, and his do-gooder brother is secretly seething with resentment and guilt. These are ingredients to a pretty awkward stew, but when you throw in a fucked up girl (Jenny Slate, drunkenly hooking up with Bill on the eve of her boyfriend’s funeral) trying to redeem herself by unwittingly volunteering with her one-night-stand’s blind brother, you get a pretty juicy jambalaya.
The casting also thwarts expectations, with Adam Scott dangerously good as a smug, vain, puffed-up pompous ass who just happens to be blind and Nick Kroll playing the relatively straight though unambitious brother. Slate, meanwhile, walks a thin line between charming and neurotic, and gets it mostly right. So they’re a fun trio to eavesdrop on, even though they’re encouraging you to do the one thing your mother would rap your knuckles for: laughing at the disabled.
But Goodhart makes sure that we’re never laughing at blindness per se (except for a few sight gags, ironically) but at all the constructs that make us tiptoe around a disability. Which maybe makes the movie sound a little more “issue movie” than it is. It’s a comedy, and a pretty easy breezy one at that. But you will laugh. I certainly did – and not just the guy at our screening who obliviously asked “Has the blind community seen this yet?”