Not-So-Quick Movie Review: Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2011)

jeff who lives at homeIn almost exactly one year, I’ve become a huge fan of Mark and Jay Duplass. I first discovered Mark by watching The League on Netflix, that took me to Jay and Mark’s first film (which they co-wrote and co-directed) The Puffy Chair. Soon after that, I watched True Adolescents, which Mark starred in. Since then I started watching The League again and then again pretty soon after that when I introduced my wife to the show. I haven’t checked out Baghead or Cyrus just yet, but got really excited when I saw that their last two movies, Jeff, Who Lies At Home and The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, are now available on Netflix Instant. I went with Jeff first because, well, I also happen to love Jason Segel and like Ed Helms quite a bit.

The story, as you might assume, is about Jeff a 30-ish dude (Segel) who lives at home with his mom (Susan Sarandon). He’s a real “everything is a sign” guy, the kind of person who might not actually be able to survive in the real world because they’re so fragile and focused on beauty and truth. Meanwhile, his brother, played by Helms, is a far more pragmatic guy is having problems with his wife (Judy Greer of Arrested Development and many other things). At the same time, their mom is having a weird day at work as a secret admirer continues to make contact by way of inter-office instant message. The actual events of the film unfold in one day as Jeff tries to follow some of the signs he sees and winds up crossing paths with his brother and then his mom.

I actually had a really interesting realization while watching this movie. See, I actively disagree with Jeff’s philosophy. I don’t believe the world has a plan for people that they can follow and get to their goals. I believe you make of this world what you can and that’s that. But, this is a movie, a piece of fiction and the beauty of fiction is that it allows us to explore how we wish the world worked. I also quickly made a connection between other movies I like that don’t line up with my personal beliefs. Of course, I don’t believe in murdering people, but I love an action movie. It’s cool to shut off the part of your brain that’s like “Hey, this isn’t how it is/what I think,” and just enjoy a movie whether it’s the latest Jason Statham movie or a more philosophical one like this.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy, I want to praise Jason Segel a bit. I first found him on Freaks & Geeks, then How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, I Love You Man, The Muppets and most recently The Five-Year Engagement. Even the roles when he’s not playing such a nice guy, he’s got this intense believability, hope and soul to him that always comes through. I can’t quite explain it, but it’s all in the eyes. He does a lot in moments where he’s just looking off into space which is pretty impressive. Helms does a lot of the same stuff but with unhappiness, fear and trying SO hard to be cool. Even Sarandon exudes sadness and hope, which is interesting because those are the two basic emotions I’d equate with her sons. It’s a really well cast and performed film even if all that wasn’t intended.

What I like about the Duplass Brothers’ movies is that they always make me feel something deep and think about equally deep things. I went into this one assuming I’d feel sad, but I was actually left feeling pretty hopeful. Even though I don’t agree with the message or mythology of the movie, I do really like and appreciate Jeff striving to find meaning in life and how that plays out in the course of the story. What I’m not a huge fan of is the mini-zooming that happens during a shot. I don’t know what it’s called, but it really calls attention to the fact that you’re watching a movie and takes me out of the story a little bit. But other than that, I’m one hundred percent on board with this movie and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to feel something genuine in a movie. I think it might also be a good gateway for the Duplass Bros. because it stars pretty big actors and looks a lot more polished than something like Puffy Chair or even Do-Deca-Pentathalon which I only started recently and intend to finish soon, possibly after watching another action movie.

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