Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his widowed mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his unhappily married brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
Year 2, Film #11
THE REVIEW: This film came recommended to me by one of my cousins and noticing a connection with last night’s Safety Not Guaranteed (Mark Duplass is one of the writers/directors of Jeff, Who Lives At Home along with his brother Jay), I figured now would be a perfect time to watch it. My general thoughts on this can actually tie in with the title. Just like Jeff (Jason Segel) follows signs/coincidences in the film, I couldn’t help but see a connection between my opinion and the title. And this connection rests on the comma in the title. To turn to basic English, a comma can be used to add a pause to a sentence or it can be used to add emphasis. This film feels like it’s held back and the focus is placed on the wrong areas.
Starting with focus, I’ll stick with the title. The title is very descriptive. Not only does it give a characters name but it also says something about him. Right away, you’re going into the film with prior knowledge. Grown man who still lives at home. Why? Has there been a tragedy that’s forced him to move back, has he never left, what’s he doing there, does he ever leave? All these questions come up even before the film starts just because of the title. You expect everything to be about Jeff and why he is where he is. And at the beginning, that’s very much true. There’s a quote from Jeff that’s very deep and meaningful. But that’s very short-lived and it’s not long until we’re introduced to the rest of his family: his mother (Susan Sarandon), his brother (Ed Helms), and his sister-in-law (Judy Greer). Each of whom has their own story to follow: the mom has a secret admirer at work and his brother is worried his wife is cheating on him. I’m not saying that any of these stories are particularly bad or that expecting a film mainly about Jeff led to disappointment. What I’m trying to say is the first part of the two-part point: that Jeff, Who Live At Home has some interesting and well-developed stories that are somewhat disjointed.
The second part of the two-part point (or maybe a 9-9-9 plan) is the pause. The feeling I was most left with while watching the film was that of apathy. What I was watching neither excited nor bored me. It was like I was just along for the ride. There wasn’t eye-catching action or thrills nor what I called being “entertained by banality” yesterday. I was paying attention and following along with what was happening, and like I said above I’d even go so far as to say the stories were interesting. But I feel like they were held back. There’s a lot of promise and opportunity within these characters but instead of having the freedom to run free and express themselves, it’s like they’re a gifted child placed in a remedial class. The only really exciting part is when the brother is showing off his new Porsche when something, quite expectedly actually, happens. Other than that it’s just twiddling your thumbs watching the time until the credits roll decrease.
Going back to the title, the only reason I mention the comma is to provide my own coincidence I saw. The comma doesn’t mean anything (or maybe it was all intentional?); it’s just an easy way for me to relate my thoughts. It’s just an OK movie that you won’t love, but you won’t hate either. While not precisely correlating to my thoughts, Ebert sums up the content and feel of the story itself in one great line, “It’s not a Feel Good Movie, more of a Feel Sorta Good Movie.” Sorta is that perfect wish-washy word to describe this film, whether it’s the content or the overall impression it leaves.
THE RATING: 3 out of 5