Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Corey Stoll
Running Time: 103 minutes
Release Date: October 24th
Meet the Altman’s. They’re a bland, privileged, white family whose apparent dysfunctional nature somehow means that you should take interest in their problems for an hour and forty-five minutes. Brought together by the death of the family patriarch, This Is Where I Leave You can be essentially summed up as being August: Osage County for dummies.
Every member of this family happens to be suffering from separate issues. Judd (Jason Bateman) is radio producer who is going through a divorce after catching his wife sleeping with his shock jock boss. Wendy (Tina Fey) is trapped in a loveless marriage. Oldest brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife have been desperately trying to have a child for the longest time and baby brother Phillip (Adam Driver) is an immature screw-up. While their father was an atheistic Jew, his dying wish, according to their mother (Jane Fonda), was for the family to sit Shiva, forcing them to spend a week together.
As you can tell, there is a very impressive cast at work here. However it becomes clear very early on that a good cast does not make a good movie. One problem is that none of the actors are given anything that takes them out of their comfort zone. So you have Bateman playing the straight man. Driver is the irresponsible hipster. Fey is fussy. Stoll is underdeveloped. The film might as well have been called Typecast! – The Movie!
One big issue is that it’s completely overcrowded with a huge array of subplots. So not only do we have the main family plot but we also have Judd rekindling a relationship with a woman (Rose Byrne) and finding out his estranged wife is pregnant, Wendy trying to cope with her feelings towards her ex Horry (Timothy Olyphant) who still lives with his mother across the street after suffering brain injuries from an accident. There is also the fact that Paul’s wife used to date Judd and Phillip inviting his older girlfriend over while also fighting the temptation to sleep around with old girlfriends. While normally this amount of plot would usually be completely overwhelming and hard to follow, the film lacks anything resembling tension or engagement with these characters that it seems that the seer amount of subplots is actually a challenge to the audience to find any kind of emotional involvement with the film.
This lack of emotion can be attributed to its director Shawn Levy. Looking at his filmography, which includes the Night at the Museum films, The Internship and Date Night, it is pretty clear that Levy is one of the most risk averse directors working in Hollywood today whose style contains fewer note than John Cage’s “4’33”. Nothing about the film is subtle; to the point that characters openly express their character flaws, saying lines like “I’m a fuck-up”, “What happened to me? I used to be fun” and “I never liked to take chances”. That last line, spoken by Bateman’s character, could apply to Levy and the film in general.
This Is Where I Leave You is one of those rare films; it is so bland and dull that it doesn’t even do enough to leave you angry at it. The film doesn’t do anything to allow any emotional reaction. In the end I’m reminded of the running gag of Wendy’s toddler son, who throughout the film is seen carrying a plastic portable toilet and sitting down to have a shit. Not only is this a good metaphor for the film, it also seems to be a better use of your time.