Will anyone watch “Your Highness” this weekend and think to themselves, “Danny McBride and James Franco really remind me of me and my brother?” Will anyone be identifying with the sibling relationships in “Soul Surfer” or the documentary “American: The Bill Hicks Story”? I have no idea, but I am surprised that many people I know don’t have a favorite group of cinematic siblings they relate to. I have always responded particularly to representations of fraternal trios in movies, and I thought this was common. So given that this coming Sunday (April 10) is something called National Siblings Day (brothers, send me gifts), I thought I’d ask if I truly am alone in this obsession.
I’m sure it originally comes out of my mother’s interest in any film or TV show involving three sons, from “My Three Sons” (obviously) to “Animal Kingdom” (actually, I doubt she’s seen this yet, though I expect she’ll like it). But it was key in my initial appreciation of Wes Anderson (through his casting of the Wilson trio), who kept it going with “The Darjeeling Limited,” yet it honestly wasn’t enough to woo me into the “Three Ninjas” franchise or make me enjoy “The Brothers McMullen.” And I still haven’t seen “Brother’s Keeper,” much to my fiancee’s chagrin. Because it’s not just about there being three brothers involved. They have to correlate to and remind me of myself and my own siblings. And really only one film has done that better than any other: “Coupe de Ville.”
I don’t think it’s a well known film, which is another reason I’m taking the opportunity to put the spotlight on it. One of the few directorial efforts by producer Joe Roth (“America’s Sweethearts”), working from a script by actor/writer Mike Binder (“The Upside of Anger”), “Coupe de Ville” is a road movie following the three estranged Libner brothers as they drive the titular vehicle cross country to their father’s place in Florida. Daniel Stern is the responsible eldest sibling, Patrick Dempsey is the irresponsible baby brother, and Arye Gross is my middle-child alter-ego, a nerdy romantic type. The always great Alan Arkin is their dying Dad.
Now, I don’t mean to say my older brother is exactly like Stern’s uptight military man or that my younger brother is the reform school sort, like Dempsey’s role. I’m certainly not as much of a nervous wreck as Gross’ character, either. And in our adulthood, me and my brothers have been much closer than the guys in “Coupe de Ville.” But there is enough of a similar dynamic, with my elder being the most conservative (and sometimes a pseudo-parent when it was necessary) and my younger being the most rebellious (more so in his youth) and me being the timid one. I hope neither of my brothers minds me pointing out these base distinctions between us.
I thought a lot about “Coupe de Ville” about ten years ago when my brothers and I took a long-overdue trip to see my Dad, who also lives in the South, for his 60th birthday. We flew instead of drove, and I think this was before my Dad was diagnosed with cancer (he’s since been cured, unlike Arkin’s character), but otherwise it seemed to me, the dreamer who always relates/compares his life to movies, sort of parallel to the film’s plot. I probably had “Louie Louie” in my head the entire time. Watch the most memorable scene so you know what I mean:
Of course, unlike Gross’ character, I know what a “wang on” is, in that context anyway.