As anthropological study, as a short-storylike glimpse into a character better observed from afar - or through the lens of a jumpy digital video camera - Douchebag is undeniably fascinating.
A little indie with a mumblecore vibe (scruffy dudes in their late 20s, talky and improvised, super-low-budget), director Drake Doremus' feature lasts all of 71 minutes. And by the time you're through with bearded, balding Sam Nussbaum (Andrew Dickler), that's plenty.
Sam lives in L.A. with the impossibly cute Steph (Marguerite Moreau). They're about to get married, and she wonders why Sam's brother, an artist, isn't coming to the wedding - or why her fiance hasn't even talked to him for years. Family is important at a time like this, so she takes it upon herself to find Tom (Ben York Jones) and bring him home.
"For her sake, let's just pretend to like each other," Sam whispers to Tom, off on their own after the groom-to-be has gotten over the shock of seeing his estranged sib.
It takes a road trip on the part of the brothers - to Palm Springs, then to San Diego - to learn why Tom and Sam haven't kept in touch. And why Doremus' often funny, just-as-often wincingly painful film bears the title it does.
No, actually, that becomes apparent much earlier on, when Sam snaps just because his brother doesn't own a credit card.
Dickler, gangly and intense, shares writing credit with Doremus and two others on Douchebag, and his riffy, off-the-rails rants and reckless energy certainly have a magnetic pull. Jones plays the sensitive younger sibling with a watchful, geeky air, and Moreau's cheer and charm give way to something sadder and more perceptive as events unfold.
There are instances when the seams and stitching of Douchebag's modest construction reveal themselves, breaking the otherwise realistic (and voyeuristic) experience. But mostly, Doremus' movie rings true, as some truly jerky behavior ensues.