Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Directed by: Jay and Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segal, Ed Helms, and Susan Sarandon
Plot: Jeff (Jason Segal) goes searching for his destiny, but he finds his brother (Ed Helms) instead, who thinks his wife may be cheating on him.
Jeff Who Lives At Home is made by the writing-directing duo, Jay and Mark Duplass. They have played key parts in the “mumblecore” movement, a movement in independent film that spotlights dramedy, late 20s/early 30s hardships, and natural performances. The comedy is based much more on subtlety and timing than shock value and premise-based joke telling.
The movie stars Jason Segal as Jeff. Jeff is a layabout who has been waiting for life to come to him. It seems like he smokes weed and masturbates all day in lieu of not having a job. He is constantly picked on by his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon) and older brother, Pat (Ed Helms) for not getting his act together. His mother uses his free room and board in her basement as collateral to get him off his butt and working. All she needed was for him to fix a door with some wood glue. What stops him is that earlier in the day he gets a wrong number asking for a Kevin. The rest of the day he follows “Kevin” wherever he sees it. On the back of a kids basketball jersey. On the side of a delivery truck. See, Jeff is a big fan of the Mel Gibson movie, Signs, and he sees this as the universe pointing him in a certain direction. This gives him act kind of like Yoda, like a hippie personality that doesn’t mind the occasional excess. Segal is even better when he isn’t talking. He just kind of stares into space soaking up his surroundings. He has a very thoughtful gaze.
Over the course of that day, he eventually crosses paths with his older brother Pat and stays with him through the remainder of the movie. Pat is afraid his wife is cheating on him, and the two of them try to find proof. Their relationship is pretty well-defined from the get-go. Pat is very concerned with appearances. He buys a Porches so that he looks important. He takes his co-worker to Hooters to look cool and hip (which obviously backfires). He hates that Jeff is so happy with so little. He can’t wrap his head around it so he lashes out at Jeff every chance he gets. Ed Helms does a really great job of delivering it like big brother bullying while showing real pain when Jeff isn’t looking.
Susan Sarandon’s character seems a little out of place. She plays their mother Sharon. When she isn’t calling Pat or Jeff to check in, she is receiving messages from a secret admirer in her office. She starts getting insecure about her age and appearance. Thankfully it is more self-deprecating than self-loathing. It is painstakingly obvious who her secret admirer is from the beginning even though Sharon can’t see it. They are certainly well written and acted scenes while Sharon is trying to size up her other colleagues, but with the final reveal, it just feels hollow. There is a nice message behind it about loving the one you are with, simply not being alone, and loving the person for who they are, not what they look like, but it is all superficial epiphanies. Nothing about it seems new or enlightening. It seems more like a last-ditch effort to keep cool during an indie movie that is decidedly more mainstream than anything the Duplass brothers have done in the past.
Jeff Who Lives at Home is a very fun and semi-interesting flick. It will definitely keep you up-beat and even occasionally stumbles on to morsels of comedic brilliance. It is never as funny or thought-provoking as it wants to be or thinks it is. I am still not really sure what the meaning of the whole thing was, but it was still an entertaining watch.
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