Friday, April 19, 2013

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass.
2011. Rated R, 83 minutes.
Rae Dawn Chong
Steve Zissis
Evan Ross
Benjamin Brant Bickham

Jeff (Segel) is thirty years old, unemployed, lives in his mother’s basement and spends most of his days smoking pot and finding signs of the divine order of the universe everywhere he looks. More than just finding them, he can’t help but chase them to see if they’ll lead him to his destiny. For instance, someone calls his home looking for a Kevin, an obvious wrong number. However, when he later sees a guy on the bus wearing a jersey with that name on the back he just has to follow him. His brother Pat (Helms) is in a troubled marriage with Linda (Greer) and doesn’t have the greatest relationship with mom, either. Mom (Sarandon), a widow, is dealing with her own issues. Most of all, she wants Jeff to fix the broken shutter.

In the titular role, Jason Segel has the lovable lunk thing going on and does a nice job with it. He’s no Daniel Day-Lewis, but it’s one of a few character types he fits comfortably within. Helms, goes the perpetually angry and snarky route while Greer gives us full-blown passive-aggressive. All three are perfectly fine in their roles but none blow us away.

In the mom role, Sarandon is wonderful as the ever-exasperated and lonely lady. The story line of her having a secret admirer at the office and confiding in her co-worker Carol (Chong) is really the most interesting of the various subplots. It’s the only one that really has any air of mystery (though, not much) and provides the movie’s most heart-wrenching and, conversely, most tender moments.

Most other things are ripped directly from the marriage dramedy and/or the wise man-child sage playbook. This includes the contrived ending that ties everything together. Of course, we arrive there through Jeff’s incessant following of signs. Since it all culminates in such a great thing that tugs mightily at our heart strings we’re meant to ignore the ridiculousness of it all. I’m sure some will, but for lots of us, it’s kind of an eye-rolling finale.

Aside from mom’s workplace ordeal that’s presented independently from the rest of the proceedings, Jeff, Who Lives atHome hardly distinguishes itself from many other pictures of its kind. It is occasionally funny and often melodramatic, but that’s pretty much the genre formula to a tee. It moves at a solid pace and is a fairly short movie so it manages not to drag. Think of it as a more believable and, therefore, better version of Our Idiot Brother.

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