Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Theaters: JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (2012)


Written and directed by Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass.  Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross.  (R, 82 mins)

The Duplass Brothers brought mumblecore to the almost-mainstream with the 2010 gem CYRUS and now return with the often very funny JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME.  Briskly-paced and too short to wear out its welcome at just 82 minutes, JEFF has an inspired opening half that loses momentum in the back end when it gets too whimsical, contrived, and precious for its own good. 

Jeff (a perfectly cast Jason Segel) is an aimless 30-year-old who lives in the basement of his widowed mom Sharon's (Susan Sarandon) house.  Unemployed and with no prospects, Jeff spends his days getting high, watching infomercials, and obsessing over M. Night Shyamalan's SIGNS.  Jeff believes everything in the universe is connected and nothing is coincidental.  Or something like that.  When his mom orders him to take a bus to Home Depot for wood glue to replace a broken shutter, Jeff ends up running into his older brother Pat (Ed Helms), who just enraged his frustrated wife Linda (Judy Greer) by buying a Porsche that they can't afford.  Pat manages a paint store, and doesn't understand Jeff's slacker lifestyle, but they end up on a surveillance mission when they see Linda out with a male co-worker (Steve Zissis).  Meanwhile, Sharon, who hasn't had a relationship since her husband died when the boys were teenagers, is at work, being IM'd by a secret admirer co-worker. 

JEFF's very set-up--the hero's obsession with signs and the interconnectivity of the universe--essentially tells you from the get-go that everything will tie together at the end with maximum contrivance.  And it does.  But there's a lot of good stuff on the way, including one of the funniest single-car crashes you'll ever see in a movie, and Pat in his Porsche, rocking out to the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes."  But a lot of it is cringe-worthy, especially the impromptu "kissing under a waterfall" moment, which is effectively when the film exits the real world and enters Whimsical Indie Feelgood Playland as the entire cast magically finds themselves in the same location for a climax that Ties Everything Together.  Mumblecore, even when it's made more accessible, never really has much to say, and neither does JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME.  It's pleasant and enjoyable, with fine performances are fine all around (it's great to see underemployed 1980s fixture Rae Dawn Chong, who still looks great and is very good as one of Sharon's work friends), and you leave the film smiling, even if you probably forget about it a few hours later.

No comments:

Post a Comment