JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (2012)
Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross, Katie Aselton, Matt Malloy, Benjamin Brant Bickham, Lee Nguyen, Tim J. Smith, Ernest James, David Kency, Raion Hill, Zac Cino and Lance E. Nichols.
Screenplay by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass.
Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass.
Distributed by Paramount Vantage. 83 minutes. Rated R.
Writing and directing brother team Jay and Mark Duplass appear to be quite fascinated with the idea of arrested-development men still living with their mother long after they should have moved out and on with their lives.
That was the basic premise of their last film, the wonderfully awkward comic drama Cyrus with Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei as son and mom and John C. Reilly as the sad-sack man who was trying to break into their strangely dysfunctional home when he starts to date Tomei.
Two years later, Jason Segel is the son and Susan Sarandon is the mother in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
However, though the new film reuses this rather specific plot point, Jeff is a very different movie from Cyrus, and one that is even better than that fine work. The Duplasses are growing as filmmakers and like their lead characters, they are feeling out their way and learning as they go on.
Segel plays Jeff, a thirty-ish loser who lives in his mother’s basement and has since he was a kid. He spends his days watching infomercials, taking bong hits and trying to find the greater cosmic significance of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 alien invasion film Signs. Jeff, with his peculiar stoned logic, has decided that life is just a long series of signs and if you can figure them out you will be able to achieve the impossible. Therefore, after he receives an odd wrong-number call for “Kevin,” Jeff spends the day trying to find Kevin.
It seems like an odd, even pathetic character arc, but Segel and the Duplasses give Jeff such a beguiling innocence and sense of empathy that he becomes completely charming in his Quixotic quest.
This particular day is his mother Sharon’s birthday. All she asks for is for Jeff to go to Home Depot to get wood glue to fix a broken slat in the closet door, but of course that is a bit beyond Jeff’s easily distracted attention span.
Therefore, she calls her other son, Pat (Ed Helms), a jerky paint salesman who has just bought a sports car he can’t afford and is in the middle of a marital meltdown with his wife Linda (Judy Greer). Pat and Jeff happen upon each other by chance and set out looking for the glue, but Pat is so distracted by the idea that Linda may be having an affair and Jeff is so focused in figuring out the Kevin sign that they are getting nowhere fast. However, by spending the afternoon together the estranged brothers come to get a bit of understanding of each other.
In the meantime, Sharon’s birthday brings up an identity crisis in her – she is not sure how her life has gotten so off track. She complains to a work friend (Rae Dawn Chong) about her sons’ self-absorbedness, her complete lack of a social life, how different her reality was than her dreams had been.
The different storylines intersect and merge and lead to a completely out of the blue, but effective, sequence in which Jeff finally finds his Kevin.
You might complain, if you get technical, that the movie is just a bit too reliant on wild coincidences. However, that’s sort of the point of the whole thing, so I’m willing to give the Duplasses some slack on that.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is smart and surprisingly funny, a low-key little treasure.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 19, 2012.