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Jeff, Who Lives at Home | Review

The Interconnectedness of Nothing and Everything

The latest film from the Duplass brothers, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, not only features their most extravagant cast lineup yet, it’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 mother’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 Kevin’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 Jeff’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 Pat’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 that’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 it’s not the first film featuring a loveable stoner bringing people together (as in Paul Rudd’s comparable but dissimilar role in this year’s Our Idiot Brother) this latest from the Duplass brothers is more about finding meaning in what is already available to you.

Segel’s stoner is no scion of relaxation or prophet of freeing your mind. He’s terribly unhappy, overweight, and living in his mother’s basement. He’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. It’s a film about how anything could mean something and how some things mean nothing at all, depending on what you’re searching for and how you’re searching for it.

Reviewed on November 8th at the 2011 AFI Film Festival – Special Screenings Programme.

83 Min.

Rating 4.5 stars

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Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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