Notable Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis
Review: Championing the “Mumblecore” movement are the Duplass brothers, striking awkwardly again with Jeff Who Lives At Home. But what is “Mumblecore” you may ask? No worries, enlightenment to follow. “Mumblecore” stands for a certain type of filmmaking featuring typically amateur casts and low budgets, focusing on “naturalistic” dialogue aka everyday conversation. All is true for Jeff Who Lives At Home except the whole amateur acting detail, as the Duplass brother’s domination of “Mumblecore” now attracts actors like Jason Segel and Ed Helms to participate within a genre providing realism over fantasy. It’s funny because I’m an advocate of the idea movies are supposed to transport us out of reality and somewhere new, yet a whole genre exists simply telling it how it is. When done right, these average joe flicks remain just as entertaining as their made up counter parts. But when done wrong, man they bomb. Do audiences really want to watch actors play out their most mundane actions, or relive days better forgotten? Lucky, the Duplass brothers balance Jeff Who Lives At Home with equal parts entertainment and truthfully harsh story telling. Another genre film that won’t resonate similarly between all, but the Duplass brothers create relatable characters and plausible scenarios commenting on our bland daily lives. And that, my friends, is wonderful “Mumblecore.”
Idealistic Jeff (Segel) is a thirty something year old man who still lives in his mother’s basement looking for that life changing sign to pave his destiny. His brother Pat (Helms) lives a shallow blue-collar life with wife Linda (Greer), obsessed with status and growing out of touch with his emotions. Sharon (Sarandon) wants nothing more than to see her boys happy and Jeff to grown up with some responsibility, but has her own concerns when an office secret admirer reveals themselves via notes and messages. But when Sharon sends Jeff out for a simple errand, he starts following a slew of signs which might possibly be the push he needs to overturn his life. Running into his brother as Pat attempts to salvage his relationship, the duo discuss each other’s lives and analyze the psyche on each side in an attempt to understand each mindset. But can their combination of lifestyles pull Pat and Linda back together while proving to Sharon her boy’s are doing just fine? But more importantly, will Jeff finally find the spark to light his path?
You obviously don’t understand adult relationships….
The character of Jeff, played by the perfectly homely Jason Segel, exists in every group of friends. You know, that guy who seemingly coasts through life with no urgency or purpose, convinced some higher power has already mapped our destiny and we in no way can influence it? Most of us on the other hand adapt to Pat’s lifestyle of working for the man just to barely squeak by, forgetting the importance of our inner beings and what we believe in. The ying and the yang. But which one has all the universal questions figured out, Jeff Who Lives At Home asks. Some scoff at Jeff’s slacker pot-head mentality, convinced you have to take life by the balls, but isn’t there some truth in what Jeff is saying? I know personally I’ve defied the odds by simply being in the right place at the right time, like all the stars were personally aligned. Not bragging though and just talking about small victories, there’s a part of me who believes in something grander than we can imagine. To play devil’s advocate though, I do believe that bit of Pat needs to exist in us all too. I wouldn’t have got in those scenarios if I didn’t push myself and make some type of decision, not just having life fall in my lap. But at what cost? Responsibility and society says get a job, pay taxes, settle down, and grind it out. Don’t wait for your dream job or calling, just be a “functioning member of society.” God if Pat’s character didn’t hit home work wise, minus the whole relationship problem thing as I’ve still got plenty of years ahead before a wedding happens (I think?). The whole idea of getting lost in an otherwise mindless job resonates with this young buck still trying balance work and social life, fighting with all my heart to prevent turning into a full Pat. And all those crazy ramblings I just rattled off happen when “Mumblecore” is fully achieved, and when actors truly understand the drama’s of everyday life causing self evaluation. Segel, Helms, Sarandon, Greer, and all others play humanistic parts which bring soul-searching questions to light. Are you a Jeff? Are you a Pat? Are you still?
Jeff and Pat couldn’t exist without the Duplass brother’s script though, being a nitty-gritty portrayal of the big bad world. (Minor spoiler) One scene in particular stood out, when Jeff is on his sign quest and believes the name Kevin holds some sort of key. He follows a random Kevin to an urban basketball court where he gets in the game and whitey shows some skills. Afterwards, he approaches Kevin and explains the strange situation. Kevin offers to smoke him up, and the two head under a bridge for a quick high. Immediately, Jeff is jumped by two more men, beaten, and mugged. So much for signs, right? Wrong. Tattered and defeated, Jeff still presses on with the Kevin theme and doesn’t let a minor speed bump derail blind faith. This is life. Terrible things happen to good people, but as Jeff displays you can’t let such instances jade your perception. You pick yourself back up, dust off the pain, and press on towards happiness once again. A beautiful rendition of the human drama that is everyday life, brought to us by two brothers with a knack for “Mumblecore” writing.
Jeff Who Lives At Home won’t be an emotional roller coaster or eye-opening revelation for all, but maybe you won’t judge chronic optimists anymore at least. Now of course this is still Hollywood and the ending veers off from normalcy, but the message is still delivered loud and clear. Don’t expect “The League” style comedy just because Mark Duplass is involved either, drawing comedy from more unexpected places. We aren’t laughing at misfortune, but more relatable comedy audiences can connect to presented by our characters. Another winning effort from the Duplass brothers, Jeff Who Lives At Home’s schlubby charm offers a heartfelt comedy from a real place. A break from the unexpected isn’t always a bad thing, given excitement and mystery are sacrificed in the process.
Final Rating: 7 broken wood planks out of 10
Really put’s Jason Segel’s size into perspective, I didn’t think he was THAT big…