If you’ve seen Step Brothers, you probably felt some awkward tension between the two main characters, Brennan and Dale. You may think this tension comes solely from the actors themselves, but it also comes from cinematography.
The Director of Photography of Step Brothers, Oliver Wood, used one main rule to increase tension: magnetism of the frame.
There are many forms of magnetism of the frame, but the one used most in this film was magnetism of the side edges. A good example is the title scene of the movie (below).
There is a strong magnetism of the frame on the left and right sides of the scene. It emphasizes the distance between the characters and their feelings for each other—the movie title pushes the stepbrothers away from each other.
Another great shot in this movie that depicts this magnetism of frame is when Brennan gets out of the car to meet his in-laws.
The distance between Brennan and Dale in this particular shot, sets the mood for the dialogue to come.
As the movie progresses, the rival step brothers slowly begin to become friends. As this is happening, the extreme shots of Brennan and Dale become more subtle, as seen below:
In picture one, the characters are still at the edges of the frame; however, they are brought closer together. Even though there is magnetism of the frame, it is not the same magnetism we see in the beginning of the movie.
Picture two is a different type of magnetism of the frame. Brennan and Dale become best friends at this point in the movie. The way that this friendship scene was shot is brilliant because the characters are close together with equal magnetism on each side.
Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly put on an unforgettable, awkward performance. Their spot-on acting is amplified even more with the beautiful cinematography in this film.