JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME Review

The directing team of the Duplass brothers produced a rather interesting comedy a few years ago in "Cyrus" when pairing a perfectly cast Jonah Hill opposite a wildly hilarious and self-conscious John C. Reilly. What spoke to me most about the project though, was not that it cast these two major comic actors in a more intimate light, but instead that it had them playing these characters who weren't just your average funny guy. They were in a real, completely possible situation that life presented and to see these guys that play it up with such farcical tones most of the time in a situation that made them stop and realize and then laugh made it a real treat (though Reilly is known for his serious/indie side as well). The same can be said about their followup "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" which again stars two major comic actors in roles that aren't smaller in the context of the film, but simply smaller in terms of life. Our title character Jeff is played by the always lovable and effortlessly funny Jason Segel. As an actor, Segel has perfected the art of playing a slob with musings that he'd like to compare to Ghandi. As Jeff, Segel is a perfect blend of innocence mixed with wit and charisma that spews into every look he gives his brother Pat. Ed Helms plays the up-front jerk of a guy that is Pat and is given a chance to be someone other than the goober-loser shtick that has infused pretty much every character he has ever played. Like the story it's telling, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" isn't a big movie, but it has a sweet heart and no matter how repulsive the characters might act, they win you over in the end.

Jeff and Pat's mom (Susan Sarandon) finds herself in a
perplexing situation.
Jeff is a guy who thinks everything happens for a reason, literally, every single thing. He is 30 and still has no idea as to what he wants to do with his life and seems to have no real aspirations in trying to find it either. He is simply going to let the universe guide him. It sounds very romantic and all, but the reality is that Jeff wears the same hoodie every day, hasn't had a girlfriend since high school and lives alone in his mom's basement where he seems to do nothing but watch the movie "Signs" over and over again. He is a kind of lost soul that is a slacker at heart. He aspires to much more, but the truth is that if he really had to do anything consistently it would just bum him out more. As Pat, Helms is a class-A douche bag that has chosen to go behind his wife's back and spend their savings on a Porsche rather than investing in a house. Their relationship has been deteriorating for a while now, and its clear that Pat's attitude toward pretty much everything is what is causing this. Then there's their poor mother played by Susan Sarandon who has been drifting through life since the death of her husband at a cubicle job that offers no real adventure in life. She's stuck with Jeff at home and Pat who pays her no regard or respect. We follow these three characters on a certain day that promises new beginnings for each of them, but more importantly the Duplass brothers have made it more about the meaning of those beginnings.

Jeff (Jason Segel) and Pat (Ed Helms) embark on an
unexpected adventure.
We know from the opening shot what the tone of the film will be and it continues with the musical score and the very personal way in which the movie has been shot. We don't get any particularly cinematic shots yet instead become accustomed to an increased amount of zooms and documentary-like style moving of the camera. Nevertheless, it works in building this relationship with the heart of the film, who is of course Jeff. We are drawn into his world just as his brother is when they somehow wind up on a journey together to uncover whether Pat's wife (Judy Greer) is having an affair or not. Don't let that line fool you though, that isn't what the movie is about. It can hardly be summed up in a typical fashion where the actions of these characters determine the plot line. The reason being the actions of these characters are abnormally random and while the whole point of the film is to give such everyday folks a far fetched experience the film is so expertly crafted that none of this feels all too "out there". In fact, when Jeff hops on the back of a truck because it is adorned with the name "Kevin" we completely accept it because we are thinking in "Jeff terms". It is a lovely way to shape the audiences point of view and the Duplass brothers accomplish it wonderfully here by telling a story that introduces some of the weirdest details throughout while bringing it all together in perfect sync for that one moment of clarity.

Pat's wife Linda (Judy Greer) contemplates the love for
her husband after a difficult argument. 
While it may be difficult to understand the charms of this movie at first with its patience-testing pace, by the end of it you will surely be smiling. It is hard to decipher exactly why such stories that can seemingly do nothing to offer escapism appeal to an audience, but there are moods that we all have that simply long for the company of those we can relate to. That seems to be the quest of the Duplass directing team as what they have done here is to show the what-ifs of a dreamer coming true; that vindication of knowing that what Jeff has believed his entire life finally has some credibility to it and that others, and not just anyone, but his family has caught a glimpse of it and understands where he is coming from. Why he operates the way he does. It is a sweet, charming film that offers as many laughs as it does emotional moments. The directors are just lucky enough to have such skilled actors who can truly convey the points of their writing to an audience without the meaning becoming misinterpreted. Each of these actors has done that here, whether is be Segel lending his slight smile to a moment of clarity, Helms perfectly hitting the inflection of his dialogue or Sarandon conveying her desperate need to feel more in life. It is in a way comforting and affirming that there might be someone out there that was inspired to write something like this because they have felt the exact same ways you have before, but more importantly that there is always the chance of a light at the end of the tunnel.