The latest film from the Duplass brothers, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, not only features their most extravagant cast lineup yet, itâ€™s also their best film to date. In fact, this post-Mumblecore endearing effort from the directing duo happens to be one of the most funny, touching, and entertaining films of the year as well.
Jason Segel stars as Jeff, on overweight stoner living in his motherâ€™s (Susan Sarandon) basement. Thirty years old, unmotivated, and jobless, Jeff seems to follow a garbled philosophy lifted from his favorite movie, Signs (2002), the M. Night Shyamalan flick, which asserts that everything happens for a reason, and that everything is a sign that means something. Toking up one fine morning and spouting his prolific views to himself on the toilet, Jeff receives a call from his mother at work demanding that he get out of the house to buy wood glue to fix a shutter in the house. Jeff also receives a second call from an angry sounding man demanding to speak to Kevin, becoming belligerent to find that no Kevin exists at that number. However, Jeff thinks this is a sign that he must seek out someone named Kevin on his way to get wood glue. On the bus, he spies a young black kid with the name Kevin on the back of his jersey. Creepily following the youth, Jeff plays basketball and smokes weed with Kevinâ€™s friends before the young men eventually rob him. Stumbling on his way, Jeff runs into his brother, Pat (Ed Helms) in the parking lot of Hooters. Pat, having recently bought a Porsche against the will of his wife, Linda (Judy Greer), is a bit drunk and openly disdainful of Jeffâ€™s deadbeat lifestyle. Offering Jeff a ride, Pat gets into a reckless accident, concurrently discovering that his wife Linda may be involved in an extramarital affair.
As Jeff becomes embroiled in brother Patâ€™s marital chaos, their mother has begun to experience a strange work day of her own, a secret admirer in the workplace sending her flirtatious instant messages. As each character navigates through their scenarios, they all become inextricably linked in one final, poignant climax thatâ€™s both subtle in its charm and touching in its execution.
While Jeff, Who Lives At Home is basically a glossy independent film that features some A-list stars, it neither treads water as a mainstream exercise in mediocrity nor falls prey to the grating quirkiness seen padding many an independent feature coasting on charm alone. And while itâ€™s not the first film featuring a loveable stoner bringing people together (as in Paul Ruddâ€™s comparable but dissimilar role in this yearâ€™s Our Idiot Brother) this latest from the Duplass brothers is more about finding meaning in what is already available to you.
Segelâ€™s stoner is no scion of relaxation or prophet of freeing your mind. Heâ€™s terribly unhappy, overweight, and living in his motherâ€™s basement. Heâ€™s looking for meaning, somewhere, in anything he can grasp, really. Segel gives an excellent performance here as a melancholy, charming guy trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. The other shining star here is Sarandon, looking fabulous and fierce. All of her scenes, confined mostly to her cubicle, are hilarious, delightful laugh out loud interludes speckled throughout the film. And notably, Jeff, Who Lives at Home features one of the most surprising and resplendent kisses seen from any genre in quite some time. Itâ€™s a film about how anything could mean something and how some things mean nothing at all, depending on what youâ€™re searching for and how youâ€™re searching for it.
Reviewed on November 8th at the 2011 AFI Film Festival â€“ Special Screenings Programme.