A Sundance screening of My Idiot Brother had its own share of idiots in the audience. The Paul Rudd comedy about a lovable, dimwitted guy who causes havoc for his three uptight sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel) got modest laughs and a warm, if not overwhelming, reception when it debuted Saturday night. But it’s festival tradition for the filmmakers and cast to take the stage after a screening and field questions from the crowd.
That’s when things got weird.
UPDATE: My Idiot Brother was later picked up for distribution by The Weinstein Co.
As Rudd squinted in disbelief from the stage, the first woman to take the auditorium microphone to ask a question didn’t really have anything to say about the movie — she wanted Rudd to agree to be in an animal protection public service announcement she is shooting. “I had to take a chance,” she said.
The audience groaned, but … okay. Everybody loves animals, after all, and Sundance is a close-knit event; stars are accessible, and would-be filmmakers are expected to hustle and try to make connections. It was an inappropriate public forum to make such a request, but having taken the chance, the woman was expected to shrug and pass the mic to the next person. But she persisted.
“It’s a good deal, it’s a good deal,” she said, and as the audience audibly shifted and booed. Then she followed up — astoundingly — with a dig at the film, focusing on a scene where Rudd passes out while sitting in a steam room with a self-help group. “I do have to tell you though, too: as a professional speaker, we don’t all put people around pots with coals and stuff…”
Rudd laughed, saying “yeah, for sure,” despite being put on the spot before 1,200 moviegoers.
“Anyway, Paul, I just had to throw it out there, so you wouldn’t be able to reject me later,” the woman said as the moderator — finally — went to the next question. The audience breathed a sigh of relief, at least until the middle-aged gentleman holding the microphone began to speak.
It’s not enough to describe his “question” as a rambling, nonsensical rant. For your enjoyment, here it is verbatim: “In regards to the role of Liz by Emily, I sort of, whatever anyone else actually thinks, there’s a lot of drama, you know, and whatever you utilize in education, or objective, whatever you had to go through that Liz went through, when you finished after, after the day was done and you were Emily again, is there a sense in the industry of where you finish up back to your other life, I mean, how the parts are locked? Even comedies you see that, reality, you go through a lot of serious stuff because you have to make it personal, not just to Emily, but to Zooey or anyone. Is there a method that you guys use to get yourself back to reality? And I wanted to ask Dexter this on the streets of Los Angeles …”
And so it went on. (The picture above shows Deschanel doing her impression of a question mark.) The moviehouse was a field of perplexed faces. (Was he talking about Michael C. Hall, the star of Showtime’s Dexter?) Groans began to drown out The Sundance Rambler who, for the record, did not seem nervous; rather, he was blankly oblivious, even to the revolt brewing among the hundreds seated around him.
Mortimer stepped forward to respond with the only possible answer: “Can you repeat the question?”
It got as big a laugh as anything in the movie.
Deschanel tried to save the day. “He wants to know how you let go of your emotions as an actress when you go home at night,” she said. Mortimer gamely tried to answer, but the damage was done. People couldn’t get out of there fast enough, the cast and filmmakers included.
By the end, when someone asked a related, coherent question — What about the script made each of the actors want to do it? — the remaining crowd responded with a round of applause.
More on My Idiot Brother from EW:
My Idiot Brother at Sundance: See Lisa Schwarzbaum’s reaction