Every once in a while, for reasons unknown to me, I will sit down to a film that I really don’t expect a lot from, only to be surprised at how it stays with me days after watching it. It’s not that I’m so closed minded to films; it’s just that we are bombarded with enough trailers and promotion material for a film that we seem to know what to expect from new releases.
“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is, at first glance, a film with characters and a plot to fit the all-too conventional mold of a quirky indie comedy. In fact, when I first picked up the film that’s initially what I thought. After watching the film, however, I can say that “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is anything but a rehash of every other “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine” wannabe of the last five years.
The story of the film seems simple enough: Jeff (played by Jason Segel) is a thirty-something still living in his mother’s basement. One day, his mother calls and asks him to run a simple errand for her. Along the way, Jeff reconnects with his brother and discovers his own destiny. Seems a little heavy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. In the hands of writing/direction brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” ends up being one of the most refreshing movies of the year so far.
The first thing to note about “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is the cast. Jason Segel has already proven himself to be a great talent, writing and starring in such films as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Segel is as good as ever. I would argue that Segel even gives his best performance in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” He never plays Jeff as two-dimensional and because of this, the humor and the drama which Jeff helps create in the film never hits a false note. As the audience, we believe everything that Jeff does. We are never laughing at the ideas he has about his own destiny, yet we are able to laugh at Jeff when he seems to be lending himself to the comedy. This is a hard task to tackle and many others actors would have made Jeff a caricature, which would have ruined the film entirely.
Of additional note are the performances of Ed Helms, Judy Greer, and Susan Sarandon. Helms has been made to be the main cast member in the more recent seasons of “The Office,” yet I was always waiting for him to make a memorable breakthrough into film. His performance in this film may just be that breakthrough he needs. Like Segel, he is able to balance the comedy with the drama. Greer has always been a reliable supporting player, and that is again the case here. Her character almost seems to wooden near the opening of the film, but as more of the movie unfolds we learn more about her character. Greer makes us sympathize with her, but not the point that we pity her character. Rounding out the main cast is Sarandon, somebody we’ve come to expect great performances from. It should come as no surprise then that she is great here too, delivering one her greatest supporting performances.
I cannot stop gushing about how much I truly enjoyed “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” It features some of the greatest performances of the year and the story is able to perfectly balance comedy with drama. More importantly, the film made me believe that everything happens in our life for a reason. At the end of the film, we learn as much about destiny as Jeff does. At one point in the film, Jeff asks his brother the following: “You ever feel like you were waiting forever to figure out what your destiny is?” Many of us find ourselves asking this very question. As Jeff learns his true destiny at the close of the film, we gain hope that someday we will all understand our own destiny.