Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

Jeff, who lives at home, is just looking for the answers in life. Portrayed affectionately by Jason Segel, he believes in the divine forces of the universes, and that every action serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things. His belief is that everything has meaning, and that one day, it will all bind together and that life will make sense.

Of course, Jeff is also a stoner and a moron. He lives at home in his mother Sharon's (Susan Sarandon) basement and his job status is unclear. His belief system is established right off the bat, as the film opens with a monologue, as he compares his blind faith in the universe to the movie Signs, saying that the movie "kind of meanders, and then everything comes together in this one perfect moment at the end... you start to see that all this randomness is leading towards this perfect moment." This sentiment, while admirable, only proves that Jeff beliefs don't derive from his steadfast faith, but more so because he's too stupid to know any better. But we love him all the same.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the latest concoction from the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, the latter of whom may be best known as a co-star on the FX show, The League. But the pair have now both written and directed three films (one being Cyrus starring John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill), and they are all dark comedies with a quirky touch.

The movie takes place throughout the course of one day. The adventure begins in the morning, when Jeff -- shortly after his Signs diatribe -- receives a phone call. The caller, from a wrong number, is looking for a man named "Kevin," and begins cursing at Jeff when he is told he dialed incorrectly. Though most rational beings would become annoyed by such a call, Jeff shoves asides the rudeness and thinks on a metaphysical level, and views it as another "sign."

Meanwhile, Jeff's brother, Pat, played by Andy Helms (who plays an unlikable character for a refreshing change), is having marital problems with his wife Linda (Judy Greer). It's unclear if Pat was always a, for lack of better word -- an asshole, but he has become one and it's killing his marriage.

Jeff finally leaves the house and finds his curiosity heightened when he spots a young man with the name "Kevin" draped across the back of his basketball jersey. He follows him, and that sets him on a quest that eventually leads him towards his brother.

The two don't get along at all, and have very different personalities, but eventually join forces when they discover that Linda may or may not be acting unfaithfully towards Pat. The two follow her around town to find out the truth.
Ed Helms and Jason Segel in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

A corresponding subplot involves Sharon receiving an anonymous email at work, supposedly from a secret admirer. Though she plays it off and even suspects that she may be the victim of an office prank, it's evident that Sharon -- who is widowed -- welcomes the sense of mystery to her otherwise mundane life.

Throughout the film, the viewer may find themselves wondering where exactly the movie is going. There is an inevitable confrontation between Pat and Linda, as well as between Pat and Jeff, but like Jeff's initial soliloquy about the movie Signs, we're wondering where all of this randomness is leading to. But along the way we get many sincere and touching scenes, including one between Jeff and Pat at a cemetery, and another with Sharon at work with her coworker Carol (Rae Dawn Chong).

The dialogue is simple, but endearing and captivating. The film, merely 83 minutes long, almost feels as if the entire thing is just one single scene. It's not an easy movie to find a place to pause when needing a bathroom break.

The Duplass brothers use a lot of close-up shots, which helps place an emphasis on the character's facial expressions. It helps us focus on exactly what they are saying, which is key, because it is all of the character's very different perspectives towards life is what defines them. The acting is fine, as recognizable actors and actresses all give the performances that you'd expect from them.

But when it's all said and done, and the randomness finally does come together, the movie will surprise many people. The film -- from the title, to the character's names, to the dialogue -- is quite simple and ordinary, but then it will take your breath away when it takes a mega turn for the extraordinary.

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