Jeff, Who Lives at Home

★★★★ A

Written and Directed by Jay & Mark Duplass

Jason Segal and Ed Helms, sat in a hotel bathtub discussing life and love

Jason Segal: Jeff

Ed Helms: Pat

Susan Sarandon: Sharon

Judy Greer: Linda

Rae Dawn Chong: Carol

 

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a really great comedy. The film tells the story of two brothers: Jeff (Jason Segal) and Pat (Ed Helms). When the film opens we read a quote from Jeff saying that life is full of signs and that if you follow those signs, your destiny will be fulfilled. This is a philosophy based on M. Night Shamalan’s Signs (2002) with Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Abigail Breslin (all Oscar nominees). Jeff is a pothead who sits in his mothers’ basement smoking and thinking about Signs over and over again. He basically has no life. Them, he receives an anonymous call about someone asking for Kevin. It is a wrong number, but Jeff doesn’t believe in wrong numbers. When his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon) asks him to hop on a bus to Home Depot to pick up some wood glue, he quickly gets distracted when he encounters someone named Kevin on the bus and decides to “follow the sign” only to get mugged.  He then however just happens to run across his brother, Pat who is on having “a business meeting” at a Hooters.

Pat’s life is in a state of chaos. He recently purchased his dream car, a brand new Porsche, but he was instead supposed to be saving that money so his wife  – Linda (Judy Greer)- and he could buy a real house. This is not the first hiccup in theur marriage. It is rather evident that they have fallen out of love with each other so, while racing Jeff back home from the Hooters, Pat  crashes his expensive car due to being…just a bit tipsy. But, across the street, Jeff spies Linda getting into the car with another man. And so the story takes off as these two rather incompatible brothers run around the outskirts of New Orleans trying to save Pat’s marriage as Jeff tries to amalgamate him with his crazy system of signs. All the while, the search for Kevin carries on, and with it, Jeff’s destiny.

Meanwhile, at Sharon’s office, somebody sends her a love letter and a picture of a flower. Who is this person? None other than a secret admirer. Now, Sharon and her best friend, Carol (Rae Dawn Chong) try to figure who it is and the answer is bound to surprise some.

In the end, a traffic jam on the highway and their all too impatient natures allow for all the film’s major characters to coalese into one dramatic, heartwarming, and overall memorable grand finale.

This is what comedy is all about. Smart wit. The comedy does not propel the story forward. Rather, it just makes it more watchable. Almost as if it was comic relief, only the subject matter never got that heavy, so it simply acted to make dark humor, into a slightly lighter version of dark humor.

Helms is great. He always is. Be it on The Office (2005-present NBC Sitcom based off the original british sitcom on BBC by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant), or in The Hangover (2009), or when he delivered his best performance in last years indie-comedy Cedar Rapids (2011). Segal is an actor I was not very familiar with until he decided to star, produce, and co-write The Muppets (2011), a fantastic thrill-ride for all ages. The two of them had great chemistry. Sarandon is very, very good, but she usually is. Her [character’s] friend, Rae Dawn Chong, who was appearently originally cast as Janet Jackson’s character on Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986) was very good and was completely able to hold her own against Sarandon. Lastly is Judy Greer.  I fell in love with her performance in The Descendants, so for me, her performance fell flat. I really didn’t think she did a good job when I left the theatre, but her performance has come to grow on me and in retrospect, what looked like tired acting was actually quite accurate and really reflects how exhausted she is about her marriage to Pat.

Note: the Duplass Brothers and their DP, Jas Shelton, use a very odd technique of manual zoom that makes the images jerk in and out in a disorienting fashion. At first, I thought this obnoxious but I realized that this was perfect. See, the zoom isuse to go woah!, as can be seen best in films like Network (1977), Quiz Show (1994), Drive (2011) and Vertigo (1958). I didn’t understand such a stylistic choice at first, but then I remembered that Jeff is stoned. EVERYTHING is woah! moment.

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