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Saturday 13 June 2020

Burl reviews My Brother's Wedding! (1983)

Burl here, friends, and it’s nice to see you too! Today we’re going 80s indie, which often yields fine results! And so it is here, with the second feature film from Charles Burnett, who’d already made Killer of Sheep and would go on to the allegorical houseguest drama To Sleep With Anger! This particular comedy-drama of mischance and bad choices is called My Brother’s Wedding!
Ha ha, some time in the last year or two I saw Burnett give a talk on filmmaking, and he was a pretty interesting character! I’m glad to have finally caught up to this early work, which apparently was lost for some time, ha ha! Well, you know, it happens! But My Brother’s Wedding, which is a sort of slice of life and a bit of a character study was well worth rediscovering!
Our setting is South Central LA and our main character is Pierce, a thirty year-old fellow working in his parents’ dry cleaning establishment and doing his best in the neighborhood and in the world! Ha ha, the trouble is that, though he’s a decent man, his best is often perplexingly terrible! It comes down to his inability to negotiate the different worlds in his orbit: on the one hand his friend Soldier, a troublemaking influence, has just been released from jail, and Pierce has promised his sweet old mother that he will not let Soldier get into more trouble! Ha ha, easier said than done, for Soldier, in ways Pierce finds increasingly hard to ignore, is a significantly terrible person!
On the other hand are his family obligations: not just to his parents but to his brother, whose nuptials are upcoming! Pierce’s brother Wendell is a lawyer, and his fiancée is another lawyer, who comes from a rich family! (Ha ha, the fiancée’s father, a doctor, is played by the only actor in the picture I recognized, Sy Richardson from Repo Man, Walker, Mystery Train, They Live, Tapeheads, Bad Dreams, and so many more!) But Pierce, a determined underachiever, doesn’t get along with his brother, and less still with his hoity-toity fiancée, who, as Pierce accurately points out, is forever signifying! A dinner scene with the two families is especially awkward in a movie filled with awkward scenes!
At a certain point tragedy strikes, and come Saturday Pierce faces an agonizing choice between two obligations! Of course he tries to choose both and by that effort accomplishes neither, and the very last shot of the picture reveals just how profoundly he’s messed things up! Ha ha, as a chronic double-booker who wants to please everybody, I really felt for him, even though I like to think I’d have managed things a little more elegantly than Pierce does!
It’s a compelling picture, often funny, sometimes harrowing, but thankfully never miserablist, as I initially feared it might be! Burnett’s cast is almost entirely made up of amateur non-actors, and though some might be bothered by the occasionally amateurish performances, I was not! Pierce, the picture’s focus, is perfectly good, as is the woman who plays his mother! Ha ha, the mysterious wrestling matches Pierce and his father frequently engage in was a nice touch, and the whole movie is filled with neighborhood details that give it a fine flavor of reality! The scenes are short and the movie never bores, and I enjoyed it! Ha ha, I give My Brother’s Wedding three saucepans!

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