Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)
Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writer: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Susan Sarandon
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 83 minutes
USA Release: 3/16/2012 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 6/19/2012
The Duplass brothers are back already for seconds after the mainstream success of their last movie, 2010’s “Cyrus” which featured an all-star cast that included John C Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener and was extremely well received by critics. This time around they are using their signature eccentric charm to give a bit of adventure in this dramedy that’s all about figuring out the small wonders of life.
“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” tell the story of well, Jeff (Jason Segel) who is in his 30’s and calls his home the basement in his mother Sharon’s (Susan Sarandon) house. He is obsessed with the 2002 movie “Signs” and therefore take everything in his life to mean something higher than it might actually be. And although Jeff may look like a pothead slacker (because he is) he is also extremely kindhearted as he helps old ladies onto buses and has an honest and trusting presence. He also has a bother Pat (Ed Helms) who’s life must need some excitement because he buys a Porsche much to his wife Linda’s (Judy Greer) dismay. As the story begins Jeff gets a call looking for a “Kevin“, but there is no one living there by that name. Most people would just let that go and move on with their day, but not Jeff who insists that there is no wrong numbers and there is a hidden meaning behind it all.
Until I saw “Cyrus” I had never seen a movie by the Duplass brothers before and this includes their acting credits as well. But after watching it back in 2010 I became interested in their inventive storytelling that paralleled reality very well. Although their characters are some what rare kinds of people in the world, they are still people that are realistic. With “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” I thought that it was a step up from “Cyrus” as the balance between the comedy and drama blurred together with this I would say adventure that had me guessing what was going to happened next the whole way through. Not to say that the Duplass brothers work is for everyone, some might not find it the least bit appealing, so they are defiantly an acquired taste. But anyways with “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” they took a clichéd notion of a grown man still living with his mom and gave it some depth. The character of Jeff although seems easy to figure out is actually hard to place as you don’t see a lot of characters like him onscreen or off. Outside of the character of Jeff there isn’t that much originality put into the lives of the rest of the cast. Pat and Linda’s marriage is on the rock and it deals back with money. And Sharon is lonely even though she may not realize how much she really is. All that might sound like a movie that is only half good, but it’s great all the way through thanks to Jeff being the main character, if he wasn’t or wasn’t as charismatic as he is, the movie would have surely failed.
Although the Duplass brothers have a talent for writing a compelling story their directing is almost mediocre at times. Now I’m not saying that it’s all bad but with their use of this sudden zoom in and out technique (if you can even call it that) looses it’s appeal quickly. There are times (very few) that actually work within the movie dealing with some of the more dramatic elements but overall it’s just a waste and it keeps you disconnected to the entire thing. Most movie are suppose to engage you and try to make you feel apart of it but this does the “Heisman” keeping you at a distance. Besides it’s not even that realistic as a third party viewer unless when I hang out with people we all lean in really close and then far away all the time I don’t see it as something worth using. However I do see why they may have chose it, to make them stand out maybe at the beginning of their career, but now that they have established themselves they should try and see what it’s like to not use that as their trademark, because it just looks like something a high school TV productions student would do. But besides the way the camera goes in and out, they are pretty good directors using great setting location and also camera locations.
Adding atop the great storytelling in this movie are the performances by the entire cast. Included in this small cast are Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, and Susan Sarandon and each play an important part in the three paralleling storylines that interlink with one another throughout the movie. Rae Dawn Chong who plays Carol is one of the lesser known actress in the movie (at least for me) but that aside she gives a good performance. She is Sharon best friend and like a lot of people do for each other at work is try to make everything tolerable for each other and that’s what they do. Susan Sarandon like Chong does a good job in her role, the two of them have probably the smallest story in the movie but it still is there to help lead us to the end. As for Judy Greer who is one of the main reasons I wanted to see this movie she of course is great delivering the right amount of sarcastic tone and dramatic elements as a woman in the lull point of her marriage. Ed Helms who plays Greer’s better half in the movie also does well as he chases Linda around town trying to figure out what she is up to, while also dealing with his brother. But the best and possible the most surprising performance in the movie is done by Jeff himself, Jason Segel. Segel mostly known for playing in comedies such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and on the popular television series “How I Met Your Mother” seems to be expanding his horizons in this quirky dramedy. His character is sensitive, naive and fully of life almost like a child. And while the character is likeable it also walks a thin line with how it can be played but I think Segel hit it on the head making everything even Jeff’s flaws extremely appealing.
Overall “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is a delight especially given that it came out in the time of the year that gets buried beneath a mainstream wasteland. Although it’s the type that can get overshadowed by other things playing in the theater it’s a movie that deserves to get looked at. It has fascinating and realistic characters especially the title character. And although the directing more-so the cinematography is questionably mediocre it the story that shines through it all delivering a great adventure within a dramedy.