Laremy Legel March 16, 2012
In a game of poker an opponent can go from “playing like a meatball” to “whoa, this guy just CRUSHED me” in an instant. Bluff, bluff, bluff, then bang, things just got interesting. That’s the method behind Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a film that very much looks and feels like a ho-hum drama which instead transforms into something cohesive (and great) in the closing moments. Winning performances from Jason Segel and Ed Helms, steady direction and writing from the Duplass Brothers … yes siree, it all adds up to a heart-warming treat. Enjoy at your leisure.
Jeff (Jason Segel) lives at home, just as the title advertises. More specifically, he lives in his mother’s basement. He doesn’t go out much, he smokes a lot of weed, and he’s waiting for a sign from above. Wait, what? Oh yeah, he’s a firm believer that every life has a destiny, naturally, as he’s a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. The levity of that sentiment aside, Jeff doesn’t consider himself to be a slacker or a loser – instead preferring to entertain the notion that his time to shine is coming (and soon). Though it’s immediately apparent to even the casual viewer that he might be living with a mass of delusions, he’s likable enough (even without a few Muppets in tow) that we’re willing to follow along, if only to see how this is all going to play out. When his mom (Susan Sarandon) calls from work to tell him to fix a broken window shutter, asking him to take the bus to the hardware store, he’s delivered from his comfy pot den basement into the harsh reality of the real world. Along the way he’ll stumble upon his estranged brother, Pat (Ed Helms), and some familial dirty laundry will be aired. Throw in excellent character actor Judy Greer (as Pat’s wife) and you’ve got a stellar group of performers capable of big range.
As such, where the entire enterprise could have played out as an entirely forgettable copy of The Big Lebowski it instead veers into more dramatic territory where it can stake out its own space. Brothers will seek to find common ground and relationships will be scrapped and rekindled. It’s mature work, and it couldn’t have been easy to pull off in a world where our attention spans continually vie with our patience to see which can get shorter.
Admittedly, the first hour of Jeff, Who Lives at Home masquerades as every low budget drama you’ve ever seen. Very few chances are taken, and the laughs aren’t all that plentiful either. Nice performances are happening, certainly, but with a meandering feel that leaves a viewer thinking “Sure, gotcha, fair enough”. There doesn’t seem to be a story where the story part should be, so it will be easy for a viewer to disconnect. This is a definite risk for the film, but after everything is resolved it must be allowed that there was a method to he madness. What that method is requires much in the way of spoiling, so I’ll just preach for you to give the work a chance. Let it breathe, like a nice vino.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Ed helms, Jason segel, Jeff Who Lives at home, Susan Sarandon