Despite a rapturous response at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Jacques Audiard’s English-language debut The Sisters Brothers bombed at the US box office, and has received little love from awards organisations. This can in part be chalked down to a terrible title, lifted from Patrick deWitt’s 2011 source novel, and the fact that marketing materials missold it as a goofy comedy western. In fact, it’s a bittersweet study of masculinity and rampant capitalism that has more in common with There Will Be Blood than Blazing Saddles. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as the titular siblings, a notorious assassin duo on the hunt for gold prospector Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), who complicates the brothers’ assignment by forging an unlikely friendship with their scout John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). There are flashes of absurdist comedy, with Audiard checking in on Reilly as he comes to understand the concept of brushing one’s teeth. But with traumatic pasts to process, and a shared instinctive greed to overcome, the brothers ultimately find themselves grappling with existential despair. Audiard handles the tonal shifts like a master.
The Sisters Brothers | Directed by Jacques Audiard (US, France 2018) with John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix. Starts March 7.
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