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Movie Review ~ Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The Facts:

Synopsis: Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.

Stars: Jason Segel, Ed Helms Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong, Judy Greer

Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Rated: R

Running Length: 83 mins

Random Crew Highlight:  Stunt Marine ~ Tom Akos

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  Here’s another example of a movie that is light years better than the preview makes it out to be.  At first glance one might mistake this for yet another stoner comedy about a loser who can’t seem to make it out of the basement and get a real job…but this sweetly sentimental is so much more than that.  Packing a lot of emotion into 83 fast minutes, the film plays it honest with its audience and delivers an experience that feels earned and unexpected.

The brothers Duplass have directed some odd-ball movies in the past.  Their breakthrough came with The Puffy Chair which was as uneven as a Old West sidewalk and they followed it up with their strange horror/comedy BagheadCyrus was made better by its stars but all of these films suffered from a lack of narrative voice – perhaps due to the dual director/writer responsibilities both brothers undertook.  Here both wrote and directed again but there is a newfound intent that was missing from their previous work.  It’s not made better per se – it’s all in the script…and it’s wonderful.

Casting choices here do get a bit uneven.  Our Hollywood leads are all strong and able but once we get to the local flavor the film struggles with consistency of performance.  Segel has the stoner role down so he tries a new variation of it here which serves him well.  His Jeff is not so much a loser as a lost soul looking for answers and it’s his journey to the Home Depot of all things that sets a random series of coincidences all involving the name Kevin (it’s used so much it could easily have been called Jeff Needs to Talk About Kevin) into motion.

Playing Jeff’s high strung and emotionally clueless brother Pat, Helms also excels at playing these types of characters and doesn’t venture too far out of his comfort zone.  Greer continues her streak of playing fed-up wives…a welcome change of pace from constantly playing the “best friend” roles she perfected in the late 2000’s.  Chong is an interesting blast from the past in a small role as a co worker of Sarandon’s character. 

Speaking of Sarandon, is it me or does she get lovelier every year?  With her expressive eyes and just barely out of breath delivery she looks wonderful and is handed a great story arc that she rides to success.  As the frustrated mom to the Helms and Segel characters, she does more with her role in one wordless scene than most actors do in entire movies.  In fact, nearly every character fully accomplishes their goal(s) by the end of the film – and does so without making any concessions.

The film is unexpected in so many ways – from the performances, to the script, to the ending.  Without giving much away I thought the final 15 minutes had real magic to them and might just get you all misty before you know what’s happening.  The film is better than the preview, it’s better than the title — I think this will be a movie that surprises and inspires you.

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