Jeff, Who Lives at Home – 2012

Written & Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Evan Ross

Two brothers.  Both idiots, but in different, depressing ways.  Jeff (Segel) lives with his mother (Sarandon) and spends much of his time contemplating the movie Signs.  Signs is a great movie, to be sure, but Jeff takes it to the nth degree, looking for a message in everything.  Someone calls him while he is smoking pot.  The person is quite foul-mouthed and looking for someone named Kevin.

Pat (Helms) is in a struggling marriage with Linda (Greer).  She wants to save for a house.  He just bought a Porsche.  Through a series of bad coincidences, he ends up meeting up with Jeff, crashing the Porsche, and then sees his wife in suspicious circumstances with another man.  Then his Porsche gets towed.  They have a moment that could be special at their father’s grave site.  It degenerates when he sees another sign.

Their mother, Sharon, is beyond disappointed with her son, Jeff, and a little concerned with Pat, too.  She has no prospects in her own life, and hopes that her youngest will just get off the couch today, use some money she left him and take a bus trip to Home Depot, get some glue and fix a shudder in her kitchen.  When she starts getting attention from a secret admirer, her life has a purpose, if even just to find out who it is.

This film is anything but a comedy.  The awkward elements of humor it displays are purely the work of the two leads.  There is plenty of heart on display, augmented by the presence of Sarandon, and especially Rae Dawn Chong.  The movie moves in concentric circles, and characters find themselves over and over.  Is this because of fate?  Difficult to tell, but if feels right while it is happening, especially the connection between the two office workers.

That the writers and directors are brothers is obvious in the way that Pat and Jeff interact.  They are connected by stupid decisions, and passionate about those foolish endeavors.  Sharon reveals herself to be in much the same mold.    There is a connection beyond coincidence that binds all three.  The acting, script and the direction benefit the film, each in a cohesive way.  Too much of one and not enough of another would have been disastrous.  As it is, it’s an above average drama that is unlikely to win any awards.  Everyone can be proud of this film, though.

Nice as the film is, there are some drawbacks.  The film clocks in at a scant 83 minutes after credits.  The sadness that pervades the first half of the film is almost too bad to be true.  Then there is the tattoo.  Not to give anything away, but even a person who was only passingly familiar with another would notice that one, especially where it is placed.  You can’t wear coats all day every day.

So, if you are looking for a comedy, steer clear.  If you are looking for a nice drama with a heart, give this a try.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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