2015, NR, 90 min. Directed by Cameron Labine. Starring Tyler Labine, Chace Crawford, Britt Irvin, Christine Willies, Ben Cotton.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 29, 2016
Mountain Men, a family dramedy about estranged brothers who get stuck in the woods and reveal previously undisclosed aspects of themselves to each other, follows the breadcrumbs of a familiar narrative formula. Yet Canadian writer/director Cameron Labine finds a trail that feels reasonably fresh, due in no small measure to the warm comedic talent of co-star Tyler Labine (the filmmaker’s brother).
Toph (Tyler Labine) and Cooper (Crawford, of the TV shows Gossip GIrl and Blood & Oil) haven’t seen each other for three years when Cooper returns to their remote town in British Columbia to attend their mother’s remarriage ceremony. Toph is a low-level weed dealer and part-time DJ, while Cooper is the one who got away and has a fancy job in New York, as well as a gorgeous girlfriend. Both brothers are still silently suffering the death of their father six months prior. Using a genuine-sounding excuse, Toph convinces Cooper to drive up with him to their family’s cabin in the mountains where a series of comically depicted events leaves them stranded in the wilderness and left to their own devices.
For other siblings, the confluence of debilitating events might become a manly but manageable challenge, but for Toph and Cooper, who believe that “the men in our family carry a fuck-up gene,” it’s an opportunity to prove that biology is not destiny. Although the film never fully convinces us of its characters’ cold, pain, and desperation, their brotherly sparring keeps the story interesting. The Labine brothers undoubtedly draw on a lifetime of experience for these exchanges, though Cooper serves as little more than a foil for Toph. The Canadian Rockies never disappoint, however, when it comes to providing lovely scenery, and a sweet but fitting conclusion assures that Mountain Men leaves you with a smile that’s not merely the result of Toph’s pot cookies.