My favorite movies are the ones that allow me to connect the story to my own life so that I can explore what it means to be happy and fulfilled in real time with the characters of the film. There are exceedingly few films however that have the ability to produce such a cathartic effect on me. I must be transfixed, lost, entranced. Often Hollywood movies are too formulaic and conventional to provide the realism psyche uppercut that I crave. When you feel as though you’ve seen the movie a thousand times before you are much more likely to remember that you are indeed watching a movie. That is why offbeat, low-budget films are so appealing to me. The filmmaker is often not trying to break box records; they are attempting to communicate a narrative. Independent films are the fresh squeezed orange juice that I wish everyone could appreciate on a hot day. I happen to believe that life is strange, confusing, and messy so when I see films described by these adjectives it does not strike me as a negative thing. I flock towards it in hopes of a stronger connection with the story.
Another ingredient for a truly powerful tale is great acting. If the characters are not genuine, sympathetic, and believable your chances of connecting the film to your life are slim. At the risk of sounding like an art snob (although I like to think I’m not so sensitive to be ashamed of what I prefer) I want to mention that independent films have a boosted believability factor due to the less famous actors/actresses that they often feature. It takes extraordinary talent to overcome stardom and continue to create unique characters. And thankfully there are many that possess this talent. But sometimes even that is not enough. I love Matt Damon but every time I see him in a movie I can’t help but think about all of his other roles that I have seen him play. That does not mean that I do not enjoy his movies, it means I can’t connect to his character in a way that I feel he is real. There are so many factors that go into a film that teleports you completely and gives you sublime reflection. The most important factor however is that the subject matter sparks your interest. This is my review of a movie I just saw that defines all of the favorable things that I just wrote about. This is my review of Jeff Who Lives at Home from the writing/directing team of Jay and Mark Duplass.
On his way to the store to buy wood glue, Jeff looks for signs from the universe to determine his path. However, a series of comedic and unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life…and if he’s lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.
Jeff is played by Jason Segel. The brother is Ed Helms. The mother is Susan Sarandon. What a monster freakin trio of lovable talent. Jeff is a 30-year-old, jobless, stoner living in his mother’s basement. He also happens to be wildly philosophical believing that everything in life could signify his destiny. Pat (Ed Helms) plays Jeff’s (pardon my french) douche brother who is marriage is failing. Sharon (Susan Sarandon) is the widowed, depressed and laments her children along with her unfulfilled aspirations.
I want to attempt to describe the fantastic and surreal structure of Jeff Who Lives at Home. It is almost as if the entire movie was filmed in a single take. I felt as though I was on some kind of drama rollercoaster. It was the first rollercoaster that I did not want to get off. The entire movie takes place linearly but the flow is nonsensical in the most beautiful way something can be nonsensical. You have no clue where Jeff and Pat’s journey is going to take them or how it will resolve.
I want to commend the Duplass brothers on their ability to transform comedy geniuses Jason Segel and Ed Helms into touching, decent, and true people. They are not silly or slapstick. They define the struggles of real people. And are funny in a way that is true to reality. Ed Helms is unrecognizable. And its not because of the goatee. He is an arrogant and clueless husband to Linda (the always adorable Judy Greer) along with being a jerk brother. He shows no shades of his Office and Hangover sillyness. I was deeply impressed with his versatility. I also found his character’s struggles typical of many and his transformation moving. If I could define Jeff in a single word it would be docile. His simple observations are oddly calming and yet hilarious. His warmth is contagious. He is witty without realizing it. It was an eggcelent drama performance from Segel to compliment his wild comedy portfolio.
Disclaimer: I am a sucker for anything about the meaning of life. I love to hear what other people want out of life and explore what I desire in my time. It can be a great reminder that maybe you need to refocus on something or appreciate what you have. The trio of family in Jeff Who Lives at Home are all trying to remember what makes them happy in life and how to accomplish it. Jeff is especially philosophical and it defines his actions. I found myself eagerly hoping that he would find his way and wondering what I could learn from his outlook. Pat’s struggle is his marriage. Everyone knows that marriage is complicated. It might even be a cliche. I was just reading an article yesterday that rom-coms are dangerous for couples to watch because they can give unrealistic portrayals of what life should be like, thus creating conflict. Pat’s marriage struggle is tough to define. The film does not necessary even make you root for it. But you will want to see what happens. The mother Sharon is suffering the 8 to 5 grind in the cubicle of despair. All she has left in life is her sons and her dreams. I don’t want to touch on her plotline for fear of spoilers. It is completely unusual and intriguing.
The plentiful charm and realness Jeff Who Lives at Home displays throughout would be nothing without its eccentric plot. It would be FOR SHAME to know any of the goofy occurrences beforehand so I will happily refrain. I highly recommend Jeff Who Lives at Home. It is easily one of my favorite films that I have seen this year. It is a delightful change of pace and comes in at a slice of pie sized 83 minutes.
“Everyone and everything is interconnected in this universe. Stay pure of heart and you will see the signs. Follow the signs, and you will uncover your destiny.” -Jeff