It’s a crowded weekend at the box office, and unfortunately many of the films have a significantly higher profile than “Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best,” a NYC-centric indie emerging from an unlikely source. Writer-director Ryan O’Nan also stars in this charming musical comedy, where a frustrated twentysomething musician takes a leap of faith and joins with an antic oddball (Michael Weston) in a multi-city tour across the nation where all the gigs are booked, and none of the songs are learned.
O’Nan had no idea that what started as a scribble would take him to where he is now. “I wrote that title two years before I started writing the script,” he said at a recent Q&A in New York City. “I wrote it on a little notebook while backpacking with my little sister and the idea kind of coagulated over two years before I finally decided to write it.” Sketches and doodles soon gave way to a grueling indie shoot, which lasted only eighteen days despite many locations and a budget he describes as “well under a million dollars.”
More importantly, the shoot had to incorporate extra time for O’Nan and Weston to actually learn the songs, which was not a given for Weston, the grandson of pianist Arthur Rubenstein, but not at all a musician. “We would shoot fourteen hours days and then go back to some little hotel room and start learning the songs so we could perform it on camera the next time,” Weston revealed. The band’s gimmick was based in real life, with O’Nan a veteran of several small-time punk bands and Weston, never having learned on his own, instead utilizing children’s instruments, like small accordions and xylophones.
Early reviews have pegged the film as similar to “Once,” an inspiration that means a lot to O’Nan, particularly considering the trouble in actually crafting the songs. “We recorded all the music live,” he says of the film’s various jam sessions. “Nothing was pre-recorded, nothing was looped in, it was all [shot] as you saw it.” What makes this all the more startling is that Weston says he still forgets certain arrangements, shortening various set lists on any given night when the memories have faded.
And yet, somehow, this has resulted in the Brooklyn Brothers scoring a major label debut. It wasn’t a surprised to see the Adam Yauch-founded Oscilloscope Films pick up “Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best,” but it was a surprise to see this modest two-piece outfit score a recording contract from Rhino Entertainment. “I don’t even know how that happened either,” said a vexed Weston. In honor of the film’s release, however, you’ll be able to catch them live in New York City if you attend tonight’s late evening showing at the Village East Cinema. A movie plus an impromptu performance from a label act? Nice way to spend a Friday night.
“Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best” also stars Arielle Kebbell, Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Melissa Leo, Christopher McDonald and Wilmer Valderrama and opens today at select theaters. Details of the remaining dates of their tour are as follows:
Fri. September 21st- Village East, New York
Tues. September 25th- Backspace Café, Portland
Wed. September 26th – Porchlight Records, Seattle
Thurs. September 27th- UCLA, Los Angeles
Fri. September 28th- Hyperion Tavern, Los Angeles