Release: September 14, 2011 (limited)
I love the existence of RedBox. I’ve never seen any of the Duplass brothers’ work, and thanks to that warm and fuzzy little vending machine outside pretty much every Walgreens, I can now say I’d like to sample more. While I’m always trying to be neutral on favoring one genre or actor/actress over another, I can’t help but notice that (a) this is indeed the third limited-release movie in the last month I’ve seen and (b) I really do prefer these kinds of experiences: low-key, “ordinary” people with somewhat “ordinary” settings, playing with a script that truly fits. Somehow –at least to me — these situations yield more interesting plots and scenes and tend to garner more inspired performances from the cast. My theory continues to appear valid after seeing this little diddy.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home may be as skimpy on the shots as a filmmaker may ever want to go without having to possibly reconsider his career in full-length pictures. With this new Duplass story, we meet, greet, and then leave in under 80 minutes — if you don’t include end credits.
In that way, Jeff really is paced like a short book, a novella. Its the story of a strange 30-year -old who still lives in his mother’s basement and who has this obsession with things being universally connected. One day his mom calls requesting that he do her a solid and run to the local Home Depot to pick up some wood glue for a broken kitchen item. In the course of trying to accomplish the one task, Jeff gets distracted.
Segel’s character is a man of depth, to say the least. The movie is constructed so that it catches him at all the coincidental (or not) moments which enable him to think that things are all happening for a reason — starting with a wrong number calling his house. An angry caller kept asking for someone named Kevin, when its obvious no one residing there is named as such. Confused, he hangs up but soon Jeff’s convinced that its this name that is going to lead him to a purpose.
Along the way we bump into Jeff’s older brother Pat (Ed Helms) who basically looked like this the entire time:
A strung-out paint store employee, Pat’s a night-and-day difference from our main guy here. His marital woes are obvious, plus he bought a Porsche Boxter out of sheer impulse, insisting it is key to his love life. Jeff and his brother become entangled en route to finding the ever-illusive ‘Kevin’ and in the process, Pat wrecks his idea of marriage into a tree in his attempt to show off to his aloof younger bro.
An act of the cosmos? More hilarious than anything, that’s my opinion. The wrecking of the car may be one of the more memorable scenes simply in that something fast and loud occurs. That’s not a shot at the directors, but the movie could have used more uplift and downswing, more than just emotional highs and lows. As the journey continues, certain events unfold that make it difficult to argue that Jeff is wrong about everything, but its dialogue-driven nature provides a moment or two for a yawn.
Other than that though, a majority of this movie is like watching a game of catch. Perspective seems to keep shifting back and forth between Jeff and Pat, one an idealist the other a realist. The idea of the movie is actually somewhat profound but the real subject didn’t get tackled…at least not as aggressively as it should have been.
There’s great acting, however, that should not go unnoticed. Susan Sarandon as the boys’ mother, her own emotions fragile after the passing of her husband, is wrapped up in an affair all her own, adding another twist that was downright weird.
Still, just to watch Jason Segel manage to hold back most of his goofy, school-of-Seth-Rogen chuckles is more rewarding than you might expect, even if How I Met Your Mother and Freaks & Geeks are Segel’s stomping grounds.
Recommendation: Despite being well past its release (even on DVD), its worth watching. This was a neat little addition to the mumblecore movement and a welcome distraction from megalithic/awesome/phenomenally huge wide-release superhero action franchises. Speaking of which…stay tuned for one coming this weekend.
Running Time: 83 mins.
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