YOU KNOW WHAT we need more of? Movies starring Arrow! Arrow is Jason Schwartzman's sleepy old French bulldog, and as far as I know, there is only one movie that he stars in: 7 Chinese Brothers. Arrow is so great in 7 Chinese Brothers that it's almost enough to make you forget 7 Chinese Brothers is yet another movie about yet another sad white dude.
That sad white dude, Larry, played by Schwartzman, is a creature terrifyingly close to the platonic ideal of the Underachieving Smartass Archetype™ that used to be able to afford to live in Portland. When we first see Larry, he's getting fired from his job at a shitty Italian restaurant; shortly thereafter, he's managed to get another shitty job, this time at a shitty oil change place. "Has anyone ever gotten fired on their first day?" Larry asks on his first day at Quick Lube, before trying his hardest to get fired.
There's more to Larry's life, but not much: He visits his half-awesome, half-exhausting grandma (Olympia Dukakis) in her retirement home ("I don't want that fucking thing!" she says, whenever anyone tries to make her use her walker), and he pals around with one of her nurses, Major (Tunde Adebimpe), who's also kind enough to hook Larry up with "leftover" pills from the retirement home's residents. Sometimes Larry and Major try to pick up women by telling them Major is a doctor, but more often than not, Larry hangs out in his shitty apartment with his sleepy old French bulldog, Arrow (Arrow). Sometimes Larry and Arrow go for drives in Larry's shitty car and have deep, soul-searching conversations. "You sleep all day," Larry says to Arrow. "I've never seen anything like it! You're like the cartoon cat, but a dog that's in real life." Arrow does not respond. Larry presses him: "Do you like cats? Are you awake?"
But at some point, Larry's not-so-perfect life—heretofore marked by Arrow hang-out sessions, cracking himself up by telling dumb jokes, and occasionally keying the cars of those he's deemed his enemies—starts to crack. His routine—visiting grandma, annoying coworkers, getting three cans of High Life and three mini-bottles of vodka from the Get-n-Go—begins to feel less goofily aimless and more lonely. Larry learns that his crush—Lupe (Eleanore Pienta), his boss at Quick Lube—is more interested in Major. Even Larry's grandma seems fed up. Larry's arrested development, in other words, starts to seem sad rather than fun.
Thanks to exhaustive research (personal experience), I can confirm that few people are as good at arresting their own development as sad white dudes—and it's here that 7 Chinese Brothers becomes something more than yet another movie about yet another sad white dude. There's something impressive about how reality—in all its melancholy, in all its awkwardness, in all its hollow routine—starts to color Larry's life, just as there's something refreshing about how non-cathartically Larry deals with it. Writer/director Bob Byington is smart enough to make Larry's life feel real rather than profound, and Schwartzman expertly deploys a blend of smarm, sweetness, humor, and concern. What starts out feeling like a celebration of underachieving wiseassdom turns out to be something quite different—a short, small, funny, understated story that hangs on moments that, at the time, seem unremarkable. Kind of like real life.
True, we as a moviegoing society do not need any more movies about sad white dudes. But I hereby suggest an exception be made for 7 Chinese Brothers, if only because it ends up being about at least a little more. It also has Arrow in it, and any movie with Arrow in it is A-okay by me.