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Review: Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor try to bury the past in awkward comedy 'Raymond & Ray'

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Ewan McGregor (left) and Ethan Hawke in “Raymond & Ray,” premiering Friday, Oct. 21, on Apple TV+. Picture: Apple TV+

When Raymond visits his brother, Ray, in the middle of the night, Ray, from behind the closed door, asks, “Raymond who?”

It’s been a minute since they’ve seen each other — hence the gun, which Ray (Ethan Hawke) lowers once he recognizes Raymond (Ewan McGregor). They are half brothers, raised by a cruel father they both hated, and the baggage from their childhood has carried into their adulthood.

Raymond’s news: Their father died in West Virginia.

Maribel Verdú (left) and Sophie Okonedo in “Raymond & Ray.” Picture: Apple TV+

Raymond, whose third wife has left him, has a suspended license because of a DUI but wants to go to his dad’s funeral to find some sense of closure. He convinces recovering addict Ray, a widower seven years sober who definitely does not want to go, to drive.

So begins writer-director Rodrigo García’s “Raymond & Ray,” an exercise in melancholic quirkiness that increasingly trades honest feeling for trite situations.

When they arrive at the funeral home, the brothers are stunned to find that their father is a man who will be missed. To his much-younger lover (Maribel Verdú), minister (Vondie Curtis-Hall), caregiver (Sophie Okonedo) and lawyer (Oscar Nuñez), he was a charming man, warm and caring and full of life.

Who was this guy?

Then the lawyer stuns Raymond and Ray by delivering their father’s final wishes: to dig his grave.

“The old man wants to f— with us as long as he possible can,” grouses Ray.

Vondie Curtis-Hall (left) and Ethan Hawke in “Raymond & Ray.” Picture: Apple TV+

“Raymond & Ray” aims for the kind of gentle, offbeat wistfulness of a “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Sunshine Cleaning,” but with uncomfortable awkwardness instead of eccentric ingenuity. It’s the kind of movie that, for no rhyme or reason, has acrobats break into a routine at the grave site.

The heart and soul of the movie, of course, are the brothers. Unfortunately, McGregor, wonderful in the Disney+ “Star Wars” series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and so many other film and television projects over the years, is completely miscast as Raymond, a self-described boring person who works a dead-end job at the water and power company in Cincinnati.

Only Hawke’s performance comes close to rescuing the film. He plumbs the depths of Ray’s psychological pain and unresolved issues with emotional honesty. When he confesses to his father’s caregiver that the small pleasures in life — the taste of food, a great song — can’t match the feeling of being high, but they will have to do, there is an authenticity missing from the rest of the movie.

K“Raymond & Ray”: comedy. Starring Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor, Maribel Verdú, Sophie Okonedo and Vondie Curtis-Hall. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia. (R. 105 mins.) Streaming on Apple TV+ and at select theaters, including Century Regency 6, 280 Smith Ranch Road, San Rafael, on Friday, Oct. 21.