Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You: Movie Review

Too many family clichés can leave the comedy and emotion behind.

This Is Where I Leave You is about a family coming together after the death of the patriarch. It’s a family drama with comedy that likes to cross the line. It’s a non-religious family with a mother that has decided the father was Jewish and in honor of his passing, they’re all going to sit shiva for seven days. Each family member has their own issues and the mother likes over-sharing personal details. 2014

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Screenplay by: Jonathan Tropper

Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey

The mother, Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda), in addition to re-releasing a book detailing her kids’ embarrassing childhood moments, has gotten new boobs and loves putting them in their faces. It’s the type of comedy that generally doesn’t belong in a family drama, but they also loved re-playing the joke every other scene. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t get funnier. But it’s great seeing Fonda in role that balances the drama and the comedy and gives her a character that reveals more of herself (also meant in an internal/emotional way) as the film goes on.

The kids are now 40-ish grown adults including eldest Wendy (Tina Fey), oldest brother Paul (Corey Stoll), middle-child Judd (Jason Bateman), and youngest Phillip (Adam Driver). Sibling rivalries are a minor part of the film, but they loved playing up the sibling clichés. Wendy is stable and a loving mother-type, Paul is the goal-oriented, successful and mature one, Judd is the quiet one trying to keep himself together first, and Phillip is the eternal screw-up immature one. Their primary stories are mid-life crisis type dramas detailing their relationships. Bateman’s Judd is the main character followed by Fey’s Wendy who are given much more time to develop and change their relationships, the others just get to tell us what’s going on. Fey and Bateman are the most famous actors so it’s meant for their fans the most.

Judd is divorcing his wife after he catches her having an affair with his boss (Dax Shepard). His reactions, including Shepard’s, provided a decent amount of comedy, and allows the audience to more easily connect and follow his character. He also gets a new love interest with a former crush still in town (played by Rose Byrne). Wendy had an interesting story starting with her workaholic husband who doesn’t seem to care about her and their kids, but it also involves a neighbour who was the victim of an accident. It was an incredibly dramatic and strong emotional element that gave the film some affecting moments and also something new which is rarely shown the way it was. The neighbour was played by Timothy Olyphant who could turn me into a big fan with that performance. And Tina Fey’s dramatic range shouldn’t go unmentioned since it needs to not be forgotten.

The other storylines all include things like marrying for the right reasons (whatever those are), pregnancy, mother-hood and father-hood, and of course forgiveness. The usual fare in a family drama. Other than one minor storyline in one character’s arc (the aforementioned Olyphant and Fey), it has all been done before. There were some really weird structural and editing choices – nighttime occurred more often in the middle days and some days seemed to include more “sitting shiva” than other days. Which can certainly take you out of the moment, especially if this genre isn’t your thing. It does, however, have its moments of comedy, and all the actors do a great job emotionally connecting the audience to their character. It’s easy to follow this family, but whether or not you’ll want to is another question. For fans of the genre and the actors, but that's about it.

Similar Titles:

Darling Companion (2012) - Finding a heart-warming relationship dramedy after losing the dull romantic comedy.

The Big Wedding (2013) - Building an entire wedding movie around sex jokes, but adds in some well-timed honest family drama.