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The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

2012 | 77 min | R | 1.85:1

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon


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Theatrical release date

 06 July, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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The Do-Deca-Pentathlon


The Do‑Deca‑Pentathlon Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 9, 2012

After spending a few features in the company of movie stars (including “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”), filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass return to their no-budget roots with “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.” Although built around a compelling sporting gimmick, the effort is anything but breezy, refusing to dissolve into predictable comedy beats of discomfort and competition, instead taking a domestic disturbance route, observing the wreckage of a brotherly union returning to an ultimate physical and mental trial in a quest to settle household dominance. Holding tightly to Duplass improvisation and zoom-happy traditions, the picture keeps a laudable distance away from expectations, yet it seldom provides a rich understanding of the sibling dynamic at hand, making for a strangely padded 76-minute-long sit.

In 1990, brothers Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly) competed in their own 25-event celebration of strength, called “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” hoping to crown the superior sibling. When the event closed with a disqualification, the sting of rivalry carried on into adulthood, with Jeremy a burned-out professional gambler in Las Vegas, while Mark has been thoroughly domesticated by his marriage to Stephanie (Jennifer Lafleur), also raising an androgynous son in Hunter (Reid Williams). Unwilling to even speak to each other for years, the brothers are reunited on Mark’s birthday weekend, hosted by mother Julie (Alice Vorus), creating an immediate unease in the house. Eager to attempt the “Do-Deca” again, Jeremy pressures Mark to commit to the test of sibling rivalry, with the medicated, married man finally agreeing to the challenge. Hoping to pull off 25 events in secret, the duo instead reignites a fierce struggle of will, threatening to ruin the festivities and their relationship for good.

As observed in their previous pictures, the Duplass Brothers have a specific style of filmmaking, bringing those habits to “Pentathlon” to generate an immediate intimacy with the characters and their struggles with communication. It’s an acquired taste in storytelling, necessitating patience with a wandering cinematographic style that’s habitually restless, while dialogue is largely shaped through invention, allowing the actors to feel the frayed ends of their motivation and make their own dramatic choices. “Pentathlon” isn’t a particularly nourishing tale of brotherly woe, but there are enough cutting moments to solidify the discord between Mark and Jeremy, yet the illumination doesn’t last for very long.

The sporting showdown is the core of “Pentathlon,” following the brothers as they participate in 25 events, creating a neighborhood Olympics. Through air hockey, the long jump, leg wrestling, and feats of underwater endurance, Mark and Jeremy maintain a tight schedule of competition, keeping score on a worn piece of paper that also acts as a signed document of participation. There’s comedy in the “Do-Deca” marathon, especially with the stipulation that everything must be kept as secretive as possible, requiring early morning ping-pong matches and an extensive arrangement of lies to prevent outsiders from discovering the contest. The movie’s highlight remains in competitive mode, when a family outing to a laser tag playground turns into a game of militaristic moves designed to preserve the brotherly war. It’s as close to an action scene as these filmmakers will ever get.

As expected, the “Do-Deca” isn’t about physical might, but emotional wounds, bringing out Jeremy’s jealousies and Mark’s manic behaviors, which have been successfully smothered with pharmaceutical assistance over the years. The resurgence of cutthroat behavior transforms Mark into an abrasive man, threatening the vanilla slumber of his marriage along the way, finding Stephanie’s habitual domineering losing its appeal once her husband tastes the blood of combat once again. The household disruption is initially fascinating, only to lose ground to banal scenes of contemplation and confession, slackening the pace of the picture.

“The Do-Deca Pentathlon” is ultimately about the need for communication and its powers of absolution, with the Duplass Brothers finding an undemanding tone of realism to support their themes. The picture is strangely anticlimactic, despite highlighting numerous sporting events and a toxic domestic atmosphere, content to leisurely resolve discontent that feels like it deserves a more forceful approach, enthusiastically matching the battle of determination and strength that drives the center of the movie.

Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

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