Brothers
2009
**½
Director: Jim Sheridan
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard, Clifton Collins, Jr., Mare Winningham

This remake of a Danish film Brødre is a story about two brothers who have very little in common. Sam is a well respected Marine captain with a wife (Grace) and two kids, Tommy is a carefree single man who has just served a term in prison. When the helicopter carrying Sam is shot down in Afghanistan, Tommy must get his act together and support his brother’s family. Jim Sheridan’s earnest drama attempts to portray the effects of war on the men on the battlefield and on their families back at home. The film has some poignant moments, but there’s a half-baked quality to its central relationships between Sam and Tommy, between Tommy and his father, and between Tommy and Grace. The plotting seems too cautious and the big emotional scenes end up feeling stagy and phony. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is understated, Tobey Maguire’s is intense and the girls who play the daughters are convincing, but despite her best efforts Natalie Portman is not believable as a Midwestern housewife, no matter how many times the people around her remind us that she is unusually beautiful.