Benjamin, home-schooled by his eccentric mother, is a loner whose passion for writing leads him on an journey as his story first gets ripped off by the legendary fantasy novelist, Ronald Chevalier, and then is adapted into a disastrous movie by the small town's most prolific homespun filmmaker.Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Authentically eccentric and touchingly funny: Hess does it again!
When I see a film like this receiving such an average rating on IMDb it really makes me wonder why certain people feel the need to rate a film that they must know is just not aimed at them. Just leave it alone and go rent some formulaic pseudo-quirky comedy like the Hangover or something. But for those of you who believe humor is something that needs constant re-inventing then look no further than Jared Hess' films. Gentlemen Broncos is quite simply one of the freshest, funniest, well acted (from a comedic standpoint), and sharply written comedies I've had the privilege of seeing.
The film tells a small but endearing tale which is playfully examined on a number of skilfully interwoven levels. Like Hess's earlier film, Napoleon Dynamite, Broncos is populated by an array of quirky characters, each with hidden depths. The setting is another small town in 'Nowheresville USA', and the context is the wonderfully brought to life world of trashy science fiction writing. Again, as he did in ND, Hess manages to create a world so utterly bizarre from a visual and aesthetic point of view but so familiar from an emotional point of view that the emotional tribulations of the characters become the dominant focus of the film. And this, of course, is the point. The emotions that the film both explores and manages to stir within the audience are the truest feature of the conceptual landscape. So as the film progresses, the realness of the characters increasingly stands out against the more surreal elements of the film and, with that, the audience becomes increasingly enamoured of each and every one of them.
The story itself centres on an insecure adolescent, Benjamin (Angarano), who writes science fiction novellas. Hess succeeds wonderfully in giving us yet another central character who we immediately root for and admire despite, and perhaps because of, his obvious lack of typical mainstream lead character traits. Angarano is, as usual, excellent in the lead role in that he manages to play a shy character with little to say while simultaneously holding the viewers' attention throughout. The supporting roles are all manned ably with Coolidge, White, and Clement scoring particularly well. However, as is the case with every film he stars in, Sam Rockwell steals the show from his very first scene to the very end of the closing credits. Choosing yet another quirky secondary character, Rockwell again shows that he's not just the most talented character actor of his generation but one of the most instinctively and originally funny as well. Being a good actor and being funny in a film are not necessarily mutually compatible skills but Rockwell does it with ease and as the fictional heroes of both Bronco and Brutus, he gives us two entirely different and insanely original comedy Sci-Fi characters that I will personally relish watching again and again.
As a backdrop to the action Hess uses the world of pulp science fiction novels and, as intimated above, it is with this multi-layered device that main thrust of the comedy is delivered. The fictional world of the "Yeast Lords" is so outrageously funny that I defy anyone to get through the four or five scenes starring Bronco or Brutus without cracking up at least once (for those who have the DVD, there's a particularly hilarious blooper where Rockwell can't bring himself to say the line "were there pimps?" without breaking into laughter at the sheer absurdity of his lines). All in all, the film sends up this peculiar little genre of "writing" while clearly maintaining a strong affection for the potential imaginative freedom it sometimes manages to exploit.
Gentlemen Broncos is the most original and authentically eccentric film I've seen, well since Napoleon dynamite. This latter aspect to Hess' films is a true virtue given the plethora of 'whacky-by-numbers' films that Hollywood has been inflicting on us over the past decade. At no time watching Broncos did I feel like I'd seen any of it before and the freshness combined with the innate razor-sharp wit of the writing and acting allowed me to laugh the most refreshing and honest laughs I had laughed in years. If you watched it and didn't like it but did like ND, please go back and watch it again. This is a rare gem of a film and if you ultimately change your mind and come to agree with us small band of Hess devotees then do your best to get that ridiculously inappropriate rating up.
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