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It Makes No Sense That the Duplass Brothers Are This Appealing

Jay and Mark Duplass. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

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Approximately five minutes into the book trailer (??) for Mark and Jay Duplass’s forthcoming joint memoir Like Brothers, it occurred to me that I’d truly been watching this thing for five whole minutes, and that there were about 16 seconds left, so, effectively, I’d been duped into watching the entire thing. The Duplass brothers had snared me in their inescapable web, yet again.

Included in this trailer: A salt-and-pepper beard. Mark Duplass in a nondescript T-shirt. Jay Duplass in a gray shawl-collar cardigan. Another salt-and-pepper beard! Glasses! Mid-century modern furniture. A dumb, mundane premise (Mark is trying to film Jay reacting to a galley of the book coming in the mail). A meta-exploration of how a movie is made. Brothers Being Brothers (a.k.a. absolute dumbos) and a lo-fi, indie cinematic style (it was shot on Mark’s iPhone).

As far as book trailers go — wait, are book trailers even a thing? — this is not, like, a cinematic triumph. It’s just the most purely Duplass-y thing the Duplasses have ever done.

Since 1996, when they made their first movie, Connect 5, and established themselves as the least annoying part of Mumblecore, the Duplass Bros — a.k.a. Oh Right Those Guys — have created and cemented a brand that is (to me, personally) both appealing and mystifying in its appeal. The writer/director/producer/actors are really two incredibly regular white men, who embrace being totally, utterly regular, white, and male. They embrace not being “Hollywood”; they embrace their dweebiness and neurosis and embrace not really brushing their hair. Not only that, they understand just how appealing all this somehow is — which is why they’ve handily packaged that essence into a book. (Pre-order, check.)

The first explanation for the Brothers’ success is that they are brothers, as is established over and over again in their mythology. Shoes, boobs, pizza slices: it’s true that things are just better in pairs or multiples, this rule applies to humans too, I suppose. The Duplass brothers are just different enough to give options (if you don’t like neurotic dweeby Mark, you’ve got neurotic, slightly hipster dweeby Jay) but are still similar enough to provide a unified experience. They are regular guys in surround sound. Think of them like a Steely Dan album: It sounds just fine on a small, little singer speaker, but put it on that surround sound and, baby, Aja is my favorite album of all time.

Also, brothers cannot help but act like total, utter, beautiful doofuses when they’re together. See: their book trailer — basically, an inside joke that is hilarious to nobody else but the two of them. But because you can say things like “The Brothers are at it again!” their antics somehow blossom from merely boneheaded to the stuff of legends. Which is how every chapter in this memoir — “How we got into movies!” or “How we started loving Air Supply!” — becomes readable.

And since there are two of them, it’s easier for them to be everywhere all at once. Which gets us to the second reason we like the DupBros: because we cannot escape them. It might actually be Stockholm syndrome. Right now, they are either in or are the financial/creative muscle behind Wild Wild Country, Duck Butter, Room 104, and Tully. Look across the landscape of film and TV, and it’s like Where’s Waldo: Zero Dark Thirty? A Duplass was there.  Transparent, The Skeleton Twins, The Overnight, The Mindy Project, Big Mouth? There’s one or both Duplasses. Recently, if you were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, trying to escape your life or just the power of the Duplass, you may have even seen a DupBro there, too! Jay, according to GQ. I think psychologists have a name for this? Exposure therapy? Something that would otherwise drive you insane becomes something you’re just cool with after hours and hours and hours of having it in your life, right?

How can we tolerate such a high level of Duplass exposure? And how can the Duplasses? Remember the year Jude Law made seven movies, and then, for a time we could tolerate no more Jude Law? Well, you see, Jude Law was too shiny, at the time, while the Duplasses don’t try to shine; they just exist as sort of friendly, everyday pennies, and make fine movies and TV shows about other friendly, everyday pennies. That is why they have written a book that contains a chapter that’s just an annotated email exchange between two DupBros. (And frankly, why I’ll read it.) They embrace their complete white guy normalness without ever asserting that their normie white guy-ness is anything special. It rarely comes across as smug — well, it does sometimes, they have entire chapters that are “exercises in empathy,” but nobody is perfect — because they too know how weird it is that two regular bros like them have reached this level of appeal.

The Mysterious Appeal of the Duplass Brothers