In no way do I wish to encourage film makers, or film goers, to indulge in any more “mockumentaries”. “Spinal Tap” is an inanely brilliant comedy, but beyond that, all the fake interviews where people act serious but say stupid shit and the humor is dryer than the deserts of the Sudan is just too Mad TV on a bad night for me. And, does the world at large need more movies dealing with the ultra-rare genetic phenomenon that is conjoined twins? The Farrelly Brothers’ “Stuck On You” made me chuckle in spite of my preconceived cynicism, but aren’t Siamese twins kind of freakish and truly demonstrative of humanity’s impotence in the face of Mother Nature and her sociopathic caprices?
It would seem that directors Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton felt that two wrongs would make a right, as their film “Brothers of the Head” is a mockumentary about a set of conjoined twins. The directors’ incorrigibility in the face of simple logic proved to be a partial success, as the film, though not without the foibles its thematic chromosomes passed on, comes off with an inimitable sense of melancholy, humor and essence of life; its acmes, its hopelessness and its nadirs. Tony Grisoni wrote the screenplay, and while those may seem like five words I used to fill up space with a superficially important fact, Mr. Grisoni also wrote the screenplay to one of my favorite films, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas “.
“Brothers of the Head” tells the fake true story of the inseparable brothers Tom and Barry Howe (Harry and Luke Treadaway) and their rise to ephemeral fame in the British punk scene of the late 70’s. Expect the core plot to run its course in exactly the manner you would expect it to. A rich svengali prick named Zak Bedderwick comes up with the cockamamie idea to make a pop group called The Bang Bang out of a set of conjoined twins living on an island called L’estrange Head…
Yes, you read the name of the brothers’ place of residence correctly. Grisoni follows the mockumentary paradigm for comedy strictly and with cathartic, intellectualized rhythms and references. For instance (s): the mansion rented for the brothers to party and rehearse in is called Humbledon, their songs have titles like “My Friend (you c**t) and “Two Way Romeo”, and they have lyrics like, “We don’t give a shit/ we’re sitting in a car” and the metaphysical, “Two-to-one-to-one-to-three / are you you or are you me?” Basically, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t lol at the end credits of “Spinal Tap” when the guitarist tells Rob Reiner that if he weren’t a rock star he would be a salesman in a haberdashery, then this would not appeal to you.
…Back to the drive-by plot summery of “Brothers of the Head”.
The brothers are of course introduced to groupies, booze and line sniffing by their trashy producer Bryan Dick (Paul Day) and kept in line by their asshole manager Sean Harris (Nick Sidney). Tempers flare, Sex Pistols-esque punk rock is played loudly, and a bohemian female journalist attempts to split up the band — and the brothers’ stomachs — in a move of ultra-literal Yoko Ono irony.
Some aspects of the film are predictable and played out, but “Brothers of the Head” achieves an album-like quality in that it has the effect of creating and sustaining a mood. Jokes and dirty talk are appropriately integrated into believably forlorn commentary, unnerving performances and conflicts, and disquieting cuts to embryonic and ambiguously apocalyptic images overdubbed with dark sounding low talk and whispers. And ingenious use of a macabre color palette in post production on some scenes brings a welcome Oliver Stone feel into play as well.
The Treadaway brothers are intense, vulnerable, immature and endearing as they eerily acquiesce to the fatalism inherent in their characters’ life circumstances. The supporting cast does an adequate job and the combination of subdued writing – with sparse effervescence bubbling up from an ocean of bleak sadness – and frenetic directorial energy allows the film to surmount its initial handicaps.
“Brothers of the Head” is an exception to fundamental logic. It convinced this reviewer that maybe it is a little guileless to dismiss a piece of art just because of its premise and to say that at the least it will prompt you to ruminate on a lot of issues, one being the unavoidable incestuous nature of a conjoined twin’s sexual relationships and the legality of such a thing. If two people connected by their stomachs with a nondescript chuck of extra skin make you squeamish, then I’m sorry you read this whole review.
Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe (director) / Brian Aldiss (novel), Tony Grisoni (screenplay)
CAST: Harry Treadaway …. Tom Howe
Luke Treadaway …. Barry Howe
Tom Bower …. Eddie Pasqua
Bryan Dick …. Paul Day
Steven Eagles …. Spitz
Tania Emery …. Laura
Sean Harris …. Nick Sidney