Movie Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]
Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer
Runtime: 83 Minutes

Living as a 30-year-old shut-in would seemingly provide an ample amount of time to think about things and attempt to gain a greater meaning from life. Especially if said shut-in is a pot smoking slacker who lives in his mother’s basement. This is Jeff (Jason Segel), a guy who coasts through life while waiting for his destiny to come to him. He has a strong affinity for M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film, Signs, and he believes that everything happens for a reason, just like in that movie.

One day, Jeff receives a phone call from an angry person looking for “Kevin”. This is a seemingly wrong number dial to anyone else, but Jeff does not see it this way. He takes this to be a sign and heads off to run an errand, which allows him the opportunity to keep an eye out for more potential clues. This simple trip to the hardware store becomes an adventure when he sees a young guy on the bus wearing a “Kevin” basketball jersey. A series of unexpected events leads Jeff to run into his detached older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), who seemingly has it all: a wife, a house, a well-paying job.

However, the two of them stumble upon Pat’s wife, Linda (Judy Greer) having lunch with another man. In an effort to find out what is going on, they begin following her car, acting as amateur private detectives. Suddenly their mundane day has become an adventure.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

We also meet the mother of Jeff and Pat, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), who is randomly instant messaged by someone at work, a secret admirer. This gives her normal office routine a pleasant jolt, quite similar to what is happening with her sons.

This all ties together in a charming, pleasing way, and there are quite a few laughs throughout. The Duplass brothers have an offbeat sense of humor (see: 2010’s Cyrus), but it works quite well with such strong names attached to the script. Segel and Helms are given a chance to show off their acting chops, as each are given some surprisingly powerful dramatic moments. One scene involving Helms and Greer arguing about their dysfunctional marriage is about as raw and vivid as it gets.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

While sweet and generally pleasing, the film has some noticable issues. The Duplass brothers have a bizarre tendency to frequently zoom in and out at a rapid pace, which ultimately feels unnecessary in the context of the film. I also noticed several instances where the characters would leave a situation without properly resolving the matter (i.e. not paying for a bill at a restaurant, not paying taxi fare, etc.). Minor quibbles, yes, but these loose ends could have been easily tied up.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home has gained a wider release than I would have guessed (I saw it at an AMC Theater), which is a nice surprise for a film like this. While not perfect, the movie is an enjoyable affair that wisely mixes up humor and drama, all while utilizing a great cast with solid chemistry.

7/10

For a counter viewpoint, take the words from another moviegoer at my theater. Displeased with my reaction of “it was pretty good”, this loudmouth patron yelled “Pretty good?!?!? THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!” So yeah, your mileage may vary.

Dabbling In Mediocrity: Bad Teacher [2011] and Red State [2011]

I watched both of these movies recently but couldn’t be bothered to write up full reviews for them.

Bad Teacher [2011]
Bad Teacher [2011]
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake.

When it comes to comedies, I have a pretty open mind. Hell, I enjoyed The Hangover 2, despite most critics and blogger extraordinaires hating it. So I had fairly reasonable expectations for Bad Teacher, believing I might enjoy it more than others. Nope, not the case at all. Cameron Diaz’s role as the “bad teacher” is less than desirable. She’s bad all right, making me question how she ever got a teaching gig in the first place, but she’s also a truly unlikable character that should not have been the focus of a movie. I was hoping for some redeeming factors from her, anything at all, but that never happened. Therefore, when “bad” things started happening to her, I could care less. Nothing was resolved in the end, and the movie felt like an utter waste of time.

I laughed a few times, but the jokes were few and far in between, and ultimately forgettable. The movie also wasted the talents of Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, as both play fellow teachers who don’t do really do much of anything. At least shit/fart jokes were kept to a minimum, and watching Cameron Diaz do her version of a sexy car wash was entertaining. Not one of this year’s finer comedic efforts, that’s for sure. 5/10

Red State [2011]
Red State [2011]
Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman.

Why, oh why, was this marketed as a horror movie? Kevin Smith’s latest flick is unlike anything else he has made, although it is on par with Cop Out in terms of quality. The movie starts off harmless enough in the guise of a horror film, as a trio of teenage boys are lured into a murderous trap by an extremist religious group not unlike the Westboro Baptist Church. From there, the film quickly turns into an irritating propaganda piece that ultimately becomes a boring shootout. It’s all over the damn place, and not in a way that offers much value to the viewer.

Red State is an example of a great concept ruined by a lack of proper vision. Look, I despise the Westboro Baptist Church and their homophobic ways just as much as the next guy, but they could have been the subjects of a proper horror film, not this misguided venture. There are occasional glimmers of light, particularly in the form of Michael Parks and John Goodman. Parks’ role as a rambling lunatic of a preacher is played to villainous perfection, and Goodman is fun to watch as always. It’s a shame that Red State turned out the way it did, because there is a better movie buried in their *somewhere*. 5/10