Friday, February 02, 2018

My Brother's Wedding

Written, directed, and shot by Charles Burnett, My Brother’s Wedding is the story of a man who reluctantly agrees to be his brother’s best-man for an upcoming wedding to a woman of a higher social class as he struggles with his future and what to do for his friend and his family. The film is an exploration of a man dealing with changes in his family as he also copes with the need to help out a friend who had just been released from prison. Starring Everett Silas, Jesse Holms, and Gaye Shannon-Burnett. My Brother’s Wedding is a rapturous and evocative film from Charles Burnett.

The film follows an underachieving man in his early 30s who works for his parents dry cleaning service as he’s been dealing with the fact that his older and successful brother is about to marry a woman he doesn’t like due to her upper-middle class background. At the same time, he tries to help a longtime friend find a job and not get into trouble where they spend a lot of time hanging out in the ghettos of Los Angeles. Charles Burnett’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more of a study of a man in Pierce Mundy (Everett Silas) trying to deal with the changes in his life as he is trying to help others including family friends and the family of his best friend Soldier (Ronnie Bell) who had just gotten out of prison. The film’s third act as it play into tragedy where it play into the decision that Pierce is dealing with as it takes place on the day of his brother’s wedding where he’s the best man. It also showcase that for all of his loyalty towards his friend and his environment, there’s a major flaw about him in the way her perceives the way his brother’s fiancée and her family live without any kind of real struggle.

Burnett’s direction does have elements of style but much of it is straightforward as it is shot on location in South Central Los Angeles. Shot on the 1:33:1 full-frame aspect ratio, Burnett does use some wide shots to capture the scope of the location but maintains an intimacy with his usage of close-ups and medium shots. Notably in the way he captures Pierce’s life with the family as he would work in their laundromat where it doesn’t have much space but Burnett is able to move the camera and show exactly what it is like and why Pierce feels comfortable in the setting despite being a slacker in some ways. It’s in sharp contrast to a tense dinner scene with his the family of his brother’s fiancée where he makes it clear he doesn’t like what they represent nor how they live as it does show a sense of ignorance where Pierce’s mother feels embarrassed for what he’s doing when she told him to behave earlier in the film.

Also serving as the film’s cinematographer in which Burnett is able to get a lot of color and natural lighting in its low-budget film stock. Burnett would maintain something that is real in the way life in South Central is portrayed before it would become increasingly violent through the arrival of crack. Even as there’s an air of innocence mixed in with a bit of danger as Pierce’s parents and a family that Pierce occasionally helps out would carry guns knowing how dangerous the ghetto is. The film’s third act is about this air of tragedy that would affect Pierce where he really doesn’t have his priorities straight into what he wants to do as the event he needs to go is the same day as his brother’s wedding day. The film’s climax on this wedding day is where it is about what Pierce will do as the ending is a reflection of who he is as a person and what he must deal with in its aftermath. Overall, Burnett creates a compelling yet somber film about a man coming to terms over his loyalty towards his friends and family on an important day for the latter.

Editor Thomas Penick does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the film’s humor. Set decorator Penny Barrett does nice work with the look of the laundromat’s interior as well as the look of some of the homes in its interior setting. Sound mixer Veda Campbell and Arthur Lopez do terrific work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the locations as well as a few scenes such as the dinner scene. The film’s soundtrack largely mixes elements of blues, gospel, and R&B to play into the environment that the characters live in.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Sy Richardson and France E. Nealy as Sonia’s parents whom Pierce isn’t fond of because of their social background, Cora Lee and Tim Wright as an elderly couple that Pierce helps out as they’re family friends, Angela Burnett as a teenage girl who has a crush on Pierce as she frequents at the laundromat, Sally Easter as Soldier’s mother who asks Pierce to watch over her son, Dennis Kember as Pierce’s father who likes to wrestle with him, and Monte Easter as Pierce’s brother Wendell as a successful attorney who is about to get married as he is upset over Pierce’s attitude. Jessie Holms is wonderful as Pierce and Wendell’s mother as a kind and no-nonsense woman who is trying to maintain some peace but also wanting Pierce to behave for the new people coming into the family.

Gaye Shannon-Burnett is terrific as Wendell’s fiancée Sonia as a woman who wants to get to know Pierce but often feels like a target as she tries to defend her background and what she does. Ronnie Bell is fantastic as Pierce’s friend Soldier as a man that just got out of prison as he spends much of his time dealing with mischief and sleeping with a bunch of women often getting Pierce into trouble. Finally, there’s Everett Silas in a brilliant performance as Pierce Mundy as a man in his 30s that isn’t keen on the upcoming changes in his life as he’s also very ignorant about Sonia and her family as well as being unsure of what to do in the film’s climax as it play into tragedy and where his priorities should be.

My Brother’s Keeper is a remarkable film from Charles Burnett. It’s a film that explores life in South Central before the emergence of violent gang wars and the crack epidemic of the 1980s where a man deals with his own ways and his resistance to change. It’s also a film that showcases an air of innocence in those times despite that sense of danger in that world where this man thrives in unaware of its drawbacks. In the end, My Brother’s Keeper is an incredible film from Charles Burnett.

Charles Burnett Films: Killer of Sheep - To Sleep with Anger – (The Glass Shield) – (The Annihilation of Fish) – (Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation)

© thevoid99 2018

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