Brothers of the Head

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/03/06 23:55:53

"And You Thought the White Stripes Were Kinda Creepy"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

“Brothers of the Head” tells, in faux-documentary style a pair of British brothers who form a rock band, become an overnight sensation and eventually find themselves on the verge of a painful split after the pressures of fame and fortune get to them–the difference here is that the brothers are actually conjoined twins and any attempt to split them is liable to involve a lot more pain than an eventual “Behind the Music” special.

Okay, maybe I should explain a little further. Tom and Barry Howe (Harry and Luke Treadaway) are a pair of conjoined twins whose life of quiet isolation is upended when their father essentially sells them to a sleazy music promoter who wants to turn them into a musical novelty act. After spending months learning to play, their group, Bang Bang, finally takes to the stage and become a cult sensation–even Ken Russell decides to bring their story to the screen in one of his flamboyant musical biopics. Before long, though, the brothers succumb to the usual pitfalls of success–drugs, booze and a woman who falls for one of them–and their lives begin to fall apart from the strain.

This may sound like the premise for a wacky, knockabout comedy (and there are some very funny moments, especially the “clips” that we see of the scuttled Russell film) but the intriguing thing about this film, co-directed by Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton (whose previous work was the extraordinary documentary “Lost in La Mancha”) is that it handles the weirdo material in a surprisingly straightforward manner. Instead of going for outright strangeness in every scene (and the temptation to do so must have been great), the duo go for a low-key approach that works surprisingly well. Even the manner in which the way in which the brothers are joined is handled in such a quiet and naturalistic way that when we finally see it head-on, it doesn’t even register as particularly odd because we have gotten to know the characters as real people instead of seeing them just as freaks of nature.

I can’t say that “Brothers of the Head” is entirely successful or satisfying–because of the fly-on-the-wall structure, we never really get a full grasp of the brothers or what makes them tick and, as a result, the finale doesn’t have the impact that it should have (especially when compared to the similar conclusion to David Cronenberg’s masterful “Dead Ringers”).However, I still feel comfortable in recommending it–especially to those with a taste for off-beat cult oddities–because of the energetic performances from the cast, a convincing soundtrack of faux-70's tunes and the simple fact that you aren’t likely to walk away from it muttering about how you’ve seen [i]that[/i] before.

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