When 30 year old slacker Jeff gets a mysterious call he takes it as sign and goes off on a destiny tinged adventure which might just help to fix his relationship with his brother and find out the meaning behind his father’s premature death. Or at least get him out of the basement for the day.Jeff, Who Lives at Home
is the latest from the Duplass Brothers
– the quirky comedy dudes who arrived on the scene 2005s The Puffy Chair
and went on to make Jonah Hill
bearable in Cyrus
. Their output tends to mix comedy and drama in a way which favours the latter and this film is no exception.
Despite the rather joke heavy trailer, Jeff
is not full of laughs. The trials of the lead character (played by Jason Segel
) are broadly comedic and his intersections with brother Ed Helms
have a vague comedy set piece feel to them. But the story remains focussed on Jeff’s journey and his attempt to come to terms with his father’s death.
Jeff is stuck in a rut, 30 years old and still living in the basement of the family home – a constant source of worry to his mother (an excellent Susan Sarandon
) and annoyance to his brother. A sense of purpose sneaks into his dull, hermetic life when he begins to see patterns and signs in the world around him – principally the recurring word Kevin. It is, naturally enough, a useful device to help structure a script around but the desperation in the character for any kind of guidance feels like a realistic reaction to hysteria of a father’s passing.
Much of the efficacy of the film rests on Segel’s
shoulders and he does a solid job. He’s long had a better handle on the dramatic than some of his Apatow
-bred peers (like Seth Rogen
) and refreshingly keeps his fingers off the screenplay this time, instead blossoming quite naturally in the Duplass
’ ad-lib heavy process. Helms seems less comfortable, drawing away from the sweetly simple character we know best from The American Office to portray someone altogether meaner and genuinely unpleasant to wife Judy Greer
. And Sarandon
makes for a great addition, given chance to breathe in an all but isolated sub plot that contains some of the films finer moments.
The film builds to a finale which delivers on its fate and destiny premise quite nicely, while also being careful not to tie things up too neatly. For me, it was perfectly in keeping with the tone of the piece though some may find the entire thing rather incidental.Jeff, Who Lives at Home
is very much a drama with a smattering of comedy rather than a laugh out loud joke-a-thon in the Apatow
mould. But it’s competently directed and the performances are above average, especially the consistently engaging Segel
who seems capable of doing no wrong in his professional life. Worth a look.