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“Jeff Who Lives At Home” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

March 13, 2012

I’m a huge fan of the Duplass brothers (Mark & Jay); they’re rising to be in my top 10 favorite directors working today (a list for another time). My favorite film of theirs remains to be “Puffy Chair”. So, when I was attending Sundance this year, I heard the brothers Duplass would be premiering their latest comedy, “Jeff Who Lives at Home”, starring the continually funny Jason Segel & Ed Helms.

A few years ago the Duplass team directed two other comedy giants, John C. Reilly & Jonah Hill, the results were mixed, but overall satisfying, so my interest peeked even farther when I read that they would be working with Segel & Helms, comic giants in their own cultish way. The movie was not at all what I was expecting, in fact it’s probably Mark & Jay’s most mature film since “Puffy Chair”. The movie’s theme is that everything happens for a reason, we are all connected, etc. This movie would be the perfect prequel to set-up how Jeff Bridges’ the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” became the man we know and love, because I see that in Jason Segel’s performance and character.

The movie focuses on one whole day, the day in the life of Jeff (Segel), a lazy pot-smoking slacker, who has a spiritual connection with the M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs”, and lives with his mother (Susan Sarandon). Jeff wants to find his place in the universe, he knows he’s destined for something, but the question is what? Jeff is the type of person who takes everything life throws at him. When he has a strange phone call with an angry stranger looking for someone named ‘Kevin’, Jeff responds, ‘There is no Kevin here’. To Jeff that phone call means something, it has to be a sign.

Jeff’s workaholic mother, Sharon, is getting sick and tired of his constant laziness, she orders Jeff to go out to Home Depot to pick up some wood glue, if he doesn’t he can find a new place to live. While on the bus, Jeff notices a young kid wearing a jersey that reads ‘Kevin’. Jeff goes with his gut and follows him. This leads Jeff down a rabbit hole of cosmic connections that leads him to reuniting with his asshole of a brother Pat (Helms), and the two brothers journey together spying on Pat’s wife (Judy Greer) who might be having an affair with another man. Everyone has a realization about their life choices on this one-day, and all collide in a climax none of them could have foreseen, not even Jeff.

What I liked about this movie was it’s serious undertones about cosmic connection, that we’re all connected, that we all have some kind of true meaning on this big blue marble, and that’s what I think the Duplass brothers were conveying to us. Jeff is a character that is so insightful that he goes to lengths to accepting the humiliation he is in the eyes of his mother and brother, but still accepts them, and hopes that they can find their own self-need. Ok, I’m probably getting a little too spiritual here, but that’s what the movie gave me, and from what I noticed at the screening, it did mostly the same with the rest of the audience. There’s an interesting sub-plot going on with Jeff’s mother, that I think may lose track of the films overall story, but how it intertwines with the bigger problems that Jeff & Pat face I think is effective, and quite surprising to some extent.

Even with it’s heavy spiritual theme, the movie still finds room to be damn funny and much goes to the performance by Jason Segel, this is his movie and he owns it from the very first frame to the last. His man-child facial expressions capture everyone in the theater more ways than any can imagine. He’s likeable & honest which makes his character I think all the more connective. Ed Helms, I liked him, but this role overall, he just played the typical asshole big brother that I think other actors could’ve done differently or giving it a fresher nuance. A better choice that comes to mind would be John C. Reilly, but I digress. Judy Greer is getting some great attention in this post-“Descendants” world, she’s got some great acting chops in this movie, and what many critics call an Oscar scene in the middle of the film that just screams Best Supporting Actress nomination. I felt she was snubbed big time for “The Descendants”, so I’m hoping to see if she gets somewhere with this film.

I was personally connected to this film (a-la-still living with my grandparents), and I think for some people out there, who are in their 20s-30s, still living with family, can empathize with Jeff and the need of knowing that big question, ‘What’s my destiny?’ I continue to ask myself that question everyday. I know what I want to do with my life, but will destiny take me there?

GRADE: A-

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