Directors: Jay & Mark Duplass
Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer and Rae Dawn Chong
Running time: 82 mins
Release: 11th May
A mainstay of the underground film scene in the early 2000s, the Mumblecore movement, described perfectly by John Patterson of the Guardian as “relationship dramas that mine the mundane for great emotional impact with minimal budget,” has finally hit the mainstream. Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg and The Duplass Brother’s Cyrus opened the doors for Hollywood’s Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill to tackle the roles of men in perpetual adolescence, and we find ourselves in familiar territory with Jason Segel in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
Jeff (Segel) is a thirty-something stoner who resides in his mother’s basement. He believes strongly in the serendipitous nature of life and an opening quote from him establishes the theme of the movie: “keep an open mind and a pure heart and the universe will reveal itself to you through signs”. A wrong number call for someone named Kevin, and an errand from his mother to buy wood glue leads Jeff on a journey that reunites him with his somewhat estranged brother, Pat (Ed Helms), and results in a far from coincidental seeming chain of events.
Unfairly being billed as a comedy by the trailer, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is far from it. Those familiar with Cyrus, will know more what to expect – out and out laughs are substituted for sincere relationship drama and family reconnections. Not to say though, that there’s no humour present. Jeff’s surreptitious attempts at catching his brother’s wife cheating trawls the look away awkwardness of Helm’s day job in The Office while the notion that his everything-that-happens-is-destiny theory is based on M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs is nothing short of acerbic genius.
Segel’s performance, although not a huge departure from what he’s known for, is pitch perfect. Helms plays the perfect uptight foil to his brother, their bickering could only come from the pen of two siblings – while also delivering a scathing and all-too-true-to-life depiction of marital breakdown with Judy Greer’s Linda. Susan Sarandon occupies an almost tertiary sub-plot, yet her interactions with co-worker Carol (Rae Dawn Chong) provide some of the film’s sweetest and more poignant beats.
The third act threatens to take the wheels off the whole movie. The gallons of saccharine poured on come close to smothering the message instead of amplifying it. With five great performances though, these issues are soon forgotten, leaving only an unshakeable smile on your face.