Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA rated R for language, sexual references, and some drug use
Running time: 83 min.
Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross
Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Screenplay: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Review published March 19, 2012
Jeff Who Lives at Home is an uneven but likeable comedy revolving around a jobless pothead with arrested development, Jeff (Segel, Bad Teacher), who, as the title would tell you, still lives at home, still inhabiting the basement of his widowed mother, Sharon (Sarandon, Speed Racer), at the age of 30 in the city of Baton Rouge, La. When the film opens, Jeff is waxing nostalgic about the M. Night Shyamalan alien film Signs, specifically in how repeated viewings have drawn forth what a work of genius it is that a slew of random acts come together in the end to provide a deeper, connected meaning.
It is Jeff's newfound belief in the interconnectedness of all things that gets him off his couch (ostensibly to get wood glue to fix a broken door) and in search of someone or something related to Kevin, who happens to be the name that a random person calls his phone asking for in an obvious wrong number situation. He follows a hood rat with the name Kevin (Ross, ATL) emblazoned on his custom jersey to an inner-city basketball game, and from there, Jeff is off an an errant adventure that sees him get in the middle of what might be the final spat between his older, emotionally constipated brother Pat (Helms, Cedar Rapids) and his wife Linda (Greer, The Descendants), while mother Sharon, who hasn't been in a relationship with anyone since the death of Jeff and Pat's father nearly two decades prior, is finding newfound feelings when she begins to receive instant messages on her work computer from a secret admirer.
Jeff Who Lives at Home is the brain-child of filmmaking writer-director brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus, The Puffy Chair). Segel has played variations of this character in films before, particularly in I Love You Man, which featured a similar aimless pothead who manages to change the lives of those around him. But there is an undercurrent of sweetness to his character, and of the movie as a whole, that makes it amiable enough to allow for some artistic license, particularly in the contrived way that characters keep running into one another. The Duplass brothers preface the film with a statement about the interconnectedness of random things, a move that works wonders in not losing the audience from many of the farfetched situations that follow.
Jeff Who Lives at Home will likely be of primary appeal to audiences who prefer the quirky, offbeat humor that is part and parcel of the character-driven comedies found in film festivals and movie theaters off the beaten track that show mostly independent features. The writing and characterizations are the real draw, especially as how this nice collection of actors brings to life. The direction attempts to be stylish, but the sporadic zoom-ins of the handheld digital cameras tends to draw more attention to the technique than should be warranted. At only 83 minutes, it doesn't overburden its slight premise to the breaking point, despite the occasional lull. While playing as slight, it's more a case of sleight-of-hand, as Jeff ultimately emerges about big things and big ideas regarding the chasing of folly that can lead a long-suffering family to get unstuck from the life's deepest of ruts.
©2012 Vince Leo