Watched Jun 07, 2012
Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the newest feature from the writing/directing team of Jay and Mark Duplass, is a difficult film to accurately explain. You look at the cast list, headlined by Jason Segel and Ed Helms, but the Duplass brothers deliver something entirely outside of what you'd expect with these two at the head. As they did with their previous film Cyrus, they've taken actors who are known primarily as comedians and used their natural humor in a unique way, placing them in the shoes of more dramatic and potentially unlikeable characters.
Segel plays Jeff, who (as expected) lives in his mother's basement and fills his day with repeated viewings of Signs and is upset when his mother (an expertly cast Susan Sarandon) demands that he go to Home Depot and buy some glue to fix a door in the kitchen. Ed Helms is Pat, Jeff's brother, who is suffering in a rocky marriage with Linda (Judy Greer) and has recently bought a Porsche in an attempt to make himself more happy, or normal, or something. On the surface, these are both pretty detestable guys.
Jeff is a 30-year old man who lives at home and gives his mother grief when she wants him to get off the couch and fix a door, which is made worse by the fact that it's her birthday and this is all she wants from her son. Pat is a giant tool who buys an expensive car without even telling his wife until after he had already bought it, and is constantly trying too hard to be liked and shove his success in the face of others. Instead of trying to explain their faults and make them more charming or make their flaws an excuse to create comedic situations, the Duplass brothers take on the more interesting approach of letting these flaws just be a part of the characters. That's just the way they are presented to us, and we have to accept them as these people.
Over the course of the film, their fates collide and they endure a surprisingly life-altering experience together, but the brothers don't allow their writing to ever betray who these characters are when we are first introduced to them. They never do anything that seems out of character, but rather they are constantly growing throughout the journey this film takes them on. We meet them at an important time in their life, and the writers make their progression through it seem surprisingly natural and organic.
What's most interesting about the film is the way that it tackles this theme of fate that Jeff becomes so obsessed with after watching Signs. It's a silly idea to hinge your film on, but the way it builds is truly remarkable to watch. Particularly when the film is over and they experience these life-changing events, you look back on it all and realize that everything had been building towards this. Every single moment in the film is a direct consequence of the one that came before it, and none of it ever would have happened if Jeff had never watched the movie Signs.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is written in such a fully realized and beautifully rendered way, I was borderline amazed when it ended and I looked back on the beginning of it. To take a film this honest and sincere and build it off the foundation that none of the events would have occurred if the main character hadn't watched the movie Signs, and have it not seem ridiculous, is something pretty special indeed.