Netflix Fix: 'The Do-Deca-Pentathlon' highlights sibling rivalry with humor, charm
Sibling relationships are strange. They have the built-in "love you forever no matter what" situation that we feel with our parents but also have the flair of drama that could only come with someone who is a friend. Because who are siblings if not friends who happen to be related?
I come from a three-child household. My older sister and I completed the perfect American family my parents were aiming for. Thanks to some rogue antibiotics that negated the effects of birth control, my little sister came, stealing any hopes I might have had to be the spoiled baby of the family.
For a while, we didn't need friends. We entertained ourselves, eventually solidifying the inevitable one-upmanship that seems to permeate through all siblings.
Games of Horse would become epic battles for dad's approval. Lip-synching in the car became impassioned performances for mom's affection. I was even annoyed when my big sister started to learn how to read. What was she doing that I couldn't? Where were the pictures in these books? I immediately took to studying these sheets of paper with words on them. There was no way my sister was going to do something I couldn't.
Sibling rivalry is at the core of "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon" (Rated R, 1 hour and 30 minutes), another indie exploration flick from the UT-educated Duplass brothers.
Mark and Jeremy are two grown brothers who have grown apart - so far apart that Mark hasn't even invited his older brother to his homecoming birthday party for the weekend.
The rift between the two can be blamed on the disputed results of a 25-event mini-Olympiad the brothers created while in high school to determine who is "the better brother." During the final event, the underwater breath holding contest, the matriarch of the family forced Mark to surface, giving Jeremy the win.
The Do-Deca, as it is informally called in the film, has kept the boys in a continual state of competition like a poison that has slowly soured their relationship.
So imagine Mark's surprise at a family walk/run on his birthday weekend when his brother shows up. A wager is immediately placed. Win the race and Jeremy can stay. If he loses, he goes home.
Jeremy ekes out a win, and the calm, family weekend has suddenly become a do-over of the disputed 1990 Do-Deca.
The two brothers are as different as can be. Jeremy, a single professional poker player, is the family outcast - a misfit who brings chaos wherever he roams and enjoys razzing his brother. Mark has the boring white-collar job, is married and has a son who thinks his dad is lame, unlike his cool Uncle Jeremy.
The competition becomes so much more than who is the better brother. It's a way for each son to prove that they are more than what life has handed to them. Mark wants to prove he can be as cool as Jeremy. Jeremy aches for something resembling Mark's family unit.
Mark has tried, at the behest of his wife and doctor, to ignore his brother and his jabs. The stress of the competition isn't good for his health, his doctor says.
And so, the redo competition must be done in secret. Mark's wife isn't an idiot, though, and the sneaking around and agitation of the competition begins to weigh heavy on their marriage and on the family as a whole.
Does it matter who's the better sibling in the end? Not really - but it's a lot of fun watching the battle in between.