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The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

SXSW 2012 Review

Red Flag Releasing; 90 minutes

Director: Mark & Jay Duplass

Written by on March 23, 2012 

Families have weird quirks all their own. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon contains small victories and strange rituals – directed by two brothers who instead of compete, collaborate – Mark and Jay Duplass. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, made years ago after the brothers completed Baghead, is the type of smaller film they should periodically come back and create to recharge their batteries (although to their credit they are making exactly the kinds of movies they always have, with more recognizable household names, as Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives at Home are hardly compromises). Here we have vintage indie Duplass brothers, surfacing right at the same time as a studio Duplass brothers film.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon stands on its own, staring Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis (a regular of the brothers since Baghead) as two brothers who compete in a private Olympics with 25 events. What’s at stake? Who is the better and more loved son. The competition was never completed after it was considered a draw, when their aunt pulled Mark out of the pool during an “event” to see whom can hold their breath the longest. But it has now been reinvigorated during a charity fun run. This is cause for concern for Zissis’ Mark, who is not exactly in shape for the Do-Deca, consisting of running, hiking, swimming, arm wrestling, laser tag and pool, to name a few. This causes some concern amongst his wife, played powerfully and subtly by Jennifer Lafleur.

Like many sports films, this isn’t about winners or losers. Estranged from each other for several years the brothers bond grows closer and what seems less touching and slightly ruthless evolves into a honest portrait of family quirks. Also touching is Jeremy’s (Mark Kelly) relationship with Mark’s son (Reid Williams). Even in a misfire like Baghead, they ground their humor in quirky obsession and touching realism, as a tool for achieving an honesty that become the hallmark of a Duplass brothers feature. The voice of the brothers is slightly less mature and perhaps less refined than their studio projects. Although a broader comedy, it exists within the Duplass brothers context of the absurd – there are relationships and quirks we cling to as we grow older that are part of us. They continually question while you can grow up and shift your context, do you ever really change? These are concerns that few other filmmakers can handle as skillfully.

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