Dir. by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass - 1 hr. 23 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
I suspect that how much a viewer enjoys "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" depends highly on his or her tolerance for meandering in general. There are a lot of movies like that, particularly in the indie realm, where a certain ambiguity is what defines a character's existence. To put it another way, "Armageddon" would be a much different film if Bruce Willis didn't have a clear vision for his own life, and instead of acting decisively, liked to smoke weed in his mom's basement and try to work things out. Not better or worse, but definitely different.
In "Jeff," the titular character is played by Jason Segel, who is a 30-year living in his mom's basement (literally), and we're introduced to him waxing eloquent on the merits of "Signs" on the john, and then smoking weed by himself, in the A.M. It's his mother's birthday (Sharon, played by Susan Sarandon), and all she wants from him is for Jeff to go to the home improvement store, get some supplies, and fix a wood shutter in her kitchen. She even drafts her other son, Pat (Ed Helms), saying that Jeff is "stuck," and could probably use some help from his brother to get unstuck. Pat's mired in an unhappy marriage himself, and is kind of an asshole. The general situation is a little more complicated than that, especially Sharon's, and thankfully so. She's involved in a "secret admirer" flirtation at her office that has her at turns twitterpated and humiliated, and it's a meaty sub-role for Sarandon to bite into.
Jeff's real issue is that he does believe in destiny, and while he's open to following whims (a wrong-number phone call for "Kevin" sends Jeff off on what seem like tangents, at least at first), he just can't figure out what he's supposed to be doing. So while it might seem like a simple task to take the bus to a Home Depot to get some wood glue, coming across another bus-rider named Kevin turns it into an adventure. His brother is the opposite; always convinced that he's in the right, locked in an unhappy relationship, and having to deal with his idiot pot-head brother, all the while knowing that there's no help coming for him. Part of that is his overbearing personality, part of it is just his situation. As with any odd-couple story-line, at some point they're going to have to come to appreciate what each other has to offer, but it's a rocky road.
There are likely two vastly divergent opinions of what I have just described. If you're a Pat, this probably sounds awful. The idea of having to put up with a film (even as short as this one is) that just won't get to the fucking point, already is untenable. And I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong on that point. While things do happen, it's all in the service of navel-gazing, and you might find that uncomfortable (at best), but more likely boring. Go ahead and pop in that copy of "Armageddon," to each his own. But if you're more like Jeff (in temperament, the recreational drug use is completely optional), there are points that might definitely hit home. For whatever reason, Jeff is out of friends and down to his family, whom don't really understand where's he's coming from. He had hoped that something meaningful would have occurred to him by this point to point him in the right direction for his life, and despite the fact that he's actively trying to figure things out, it just hasn't happened. That's a sentiment that I think a lot of people can empathize with.
Comparing movies to other movies is always unfair, but at the same time, necessary. Nobody would listen to me go on this long about any movie in a conversation, but if I told you that this was kind of like "The Darjeeling Limited" without the scenery mixed with a bit of Richard Linklater's work, I think you'd be able to see the ballpark that "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is playing in. This isn't my favorite movie of it's ilk, but I'm partial to this sort of situation, and it's a quality addition to the Sibling Misunderstanding/Mired Adult section of your local video store. But if you don't already look in that section, there are probably half a dozen reasons that immediately come to mind as to why you should probably just keep walking until you hit that Exploding Asteroid section.
3.5 / 5 - Theatre