The plot of the Duplass Brothers‘ latest film, The Do-Deca Pentathlon, more or less sells itself. In 1990, two brothers competed in a series of 25 events to decide who was better and fractured their relationship in the process. The film picks up over twenty years later when circumstances have pushed them back together to finally settle the score. The hope is, somehow, there will be a clear winner this time, lifting the black cloud that’s hovered over both of their lives.

And while that premise could easily have been a huge, broad comedy with big set pieces, under the pen and eye of Jay and Mark Duplass, The Do-Deca Pentathlon is deeply personal tale that pushes the humor back in favor of humanity. 

After the controversial finish of the 1990 Pentathlon, Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis) went their seperate ways. Jeremy is a run down bachelor who makes his money playing professional poker. Mark is a married man with a young son, but he’s desperately unhappy with his own life due to the actions of his brother. On the occasion of Mark’s birthday, Jeremy shows up uninvited and the games begin.

In true Duplass fashion, the actors melt away into these characters. Each, as well as their mother, Mark’s wife and son, give fantastic performances that make this kind of ridiculous story seem real. There’s a fun sense of discovery as we see which events the brothers have to compete in and how they attempt to mask the fact this event is actually happening under everyone’s nose. Ultimately, though, as this is happening it becomes blatantly obvious the Do-Deca Pentathlon itself is a metaphor for the struggles of life. If people simply said what needed to be said, all would be forgiven.

Though its heart is the best part of the film, there are plenty of laughs too. And there’s always that signature, handheld, mumblecore Duplass style which you either love or hate. Usually I fall on the latter but, with Do-Deca, while it was shot in 2008 before the brothers made Cyrus, it wasn’t edited until after their most accomplished film yet, Jeff Who Lives At Home. The growth really shows. Editing, pacing and story far outweigh the rest of the aesthetic.

The Do-Deca Pentathlon does what it sets out to do and more so. It doesn’t quite snag the Gold but, as the film teaches, a strong Silver isn’t bad either.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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