The Duplass Brothers, Jay and Mark, made their reputation with a series of barely-there indie movies that first attracted attention at the South by Southwest festival. Since then they’ve made films like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home with well-known actors, using the same improv techniques that built their reputation. Fortunately, their micro-budget movie The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, which they shot a few years ago, is finally opening in theaters.
Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly play siblings who haven’t gotten along, or even spoken, for years because of a long-standing rivalry that began when they were teenagers and created their own 25-event mini-Olympics competition they dubbed the do-deca-pentathlon. It ended in a tie, which tore their relationship apart. When bachelor Kelly shows up unexpectedly at his brother’s birthday party they try to get along for their family’s sake, but they both know they won’t be happy unless they revive the competitive games and settle the score once and for all.
This may seem like DIY moviemaking with unknown actors—and it is—but it’s also honest, observant, and funny in a way most big Hollywood comedies aren’t. I like everything about The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, including the fact that it’s small in scale. If you’re looking for special effects or explosions, you’ll have to look elsewhere: this is a comedy about real people. The film is just 76 minutes long, but I left the theater feeling nourished and satisfied. I know Mark Duplass is pursuing an acting career (with three movies in theaters right now: People Like Us, Your Sister’s Sister, and Safety Not Guaranteed), but I hope he and his brother never stop making their own inventive, highly personal films.
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is available for digital download and on Blu-ray and DVD.