Sunday, March 11, 2012

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” – Movie Review


This weekend in my movie class, we saw the new comedy-drama “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”, starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon and Rae Dawn Chong. 



When a 30-year-old slacker is asked to help his older brother investigate his wife’s possible infidelity, will he be able to find his life’s destiny?



Jeff (Segel) is an aimless 30-year-old man who lacks ambition in life and as a result, lives in the basement of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana home of his widowed working mother, Sharon (Sarandon).  Having long ago given up on making any attempt to motivate her son, she has instead resigned herself to merely request of him some occasional chores when he’s not watching infomercials on TV and smoking marijuana from a bong.  Unfortunately, this daydreamer with severe Attention Deficit Disorder can barely even manage to do many (if any) of those chores. 

Pat (Helms), his older brother, is arguably more mature, but by no means does he exhibit exemplary behavior.  With a steady job and a marriage to Linda (Greer), Pat has at least gotten himself out of his mother’s house.  But it is Pat’s own particular form of immaturity and selfishness that drive Linda away from him and into the arms of another man.  As soon as Pat learns that Linda may be cheating on him, he prevails upon Jeff to assist in snooping on her to uncover evidence of her affair. 

All the while, Sharon is simultaneously flattered disturbed when she becomes aware of a secret admirer in her office.  She confides in her best friend Carol (Chong) regarding this information and together they set out to try to uncover who this mystery man might be.  Despite enjoying this newfound attention, Sharon is also concerned that someone might be playing a practical joke on her. 

As Jeff proceeds in aiding Pat in his quest, he suddenly has direction for the first time in his adult life – but will he somehow manage to use this experience to turn his life around for the better? 





Jeff, Who Lives At Home” was written & directed by The Duplass Brothers, Jay and Mark, who also gave us “Cyrus”.  Quickly, they are becoming masters at developing unusual comedies that are also quite poignant – odd stories about even odder characters who are believable, sympathetic and funny amidst their angst.  If you liked “Cyrus” (and I certainly did), then you will probably like “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” as well.  While I don’t usually like quirky movies such as these because they generally tend to have too much, well, “quirk”, “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is the rare exception because the characters wind up being likeable despite their neuroses. 

While I highly recommend this movie – and I must admit that it had me laughing from the very beginning (including the opening credits) – it can definitely turn off some people.  For one thing, you may not be able to suspend your disbelief sufficiently to be able to accept some of the situations, which can be a little too coincidental.  Also, as I said, this is a story about a protagonist who’s a slacker at heart; certain viewers may find this rather objectionable.  Usually I do also, but not this time.  Although the film might be accused of having a too-perfect ending, I found its eccentric manner charming and providing a satisfying resolution to all characters’ individual situations. 

Following the screening, the class had a pretty interesting discussion about the film; while the overwhelming majority of the students liked “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”, there were some dissidents – however, both sides clearly and articulately made their case for why the film either worked or not in their view.  What most everyone agreed on – regardless of whether or not they liked the movie – was the fact that it would have a difficult time finding much in the way of commercial success.  Clearly, this is one of those movies that will either stand or fall based on word of mouth.   



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