On his way to the store to buy wood glue, Jeff looks for signs from the universe to determine his path. However, a series of unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life... and if he's lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.
Genres: Comedy Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes Release Date: March 16, 2012 MPAA Rating: R (for language including sexual references and some drug use) Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Cast And Credits
Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith, Jason Reitman, Jill Rachel Morris
The reluctance â€" or outright refusal â€" of ostensibly grown men to behave like adults is more than just a favored theme of modern movie comedy. It is an axiom, a principle, a worldview. The varieties of male immaturity seem almost infinite, even if the guys on screen are almost always white, middle class and at least presumptively, if not always successfully, heterosexual. Each of these man-children offers his own special blend of innocence and id, balancing the pitiable traits of slackness and aggression with more appealing qualities of sweetness and honesty.
But Jason Segel is special. Oh, I know, theyâ€™re all special, including Adam Sandler, the puerile granddaddy of them all. Still, Mr. Segel, playing the title character in Jay and Mark Duplassâ€™s â€œJeff, Who Lives at Home,â€ is, at least, an unusually gentle and dreamy specimen.
His daunting size â€" â€œYouâ€™re like a Sasquatch,â€ someone in the movie says â€" contrasts with soft, babyish features and a wounded, wide-eyed manner. You are encouraged, at the outset, to laugh at Jeff and feel sorry for him. At 30 he spends his time in his motherâ€™s basement, smoking weed and watching television and musing on his destiny. But as that destiny unfolds, you come to like Jeff and even to admire him. The aura of holy foolishness that hangs around him is not just bong exhaust: he turns out to be the hero of a disarmingly sincere spiritual fable.
Or else the butt of a supremely clever, passive-aggressive joke. Or maybe â€" most likely â€" both. â€œJeff, Who Lives at Home,â€ like the Duplass brothersâ€™ earlier â€œCyrus,â€ is a fascinating stylistic experiment, an attempt to bring the scruffy, discursive, lo-fi aesthetic of Mumblecore into some kind of harmony with the genre imperatives of commercial moviemaking. â€œCyrus,â€ with Jonah Hill as the overgrown stay-at-home kid, forged an unstable alloy of hilarity and creepiness.
â€œJeff, Who Lives at Homeâ€ is more consistent in its tone and coherent in its story. The camera moves with jittery compulsiveness, as though it were attached to the head of a high-strung puppy, but the effect is less irritating, and more expressive, than it was in â€œCyrusâ€ or the Duplass brothersâ€™ â€œPuffy Chair.â€ The frequent zooms â€" a signature Duplassian tic â€" are like quiet double-takes, as if the camera were raising its eyebrows in mild amazement at the absurdity of what it sees.
Can you believe this?, the movie asks, raising the stakes each time the question comes up. â€œJeff, Who Lives at Homeâ€ is more disciplined than â€œCyrus,â€ but also, in some ways, a lot crazier. It pays homage less to the work of Judd Apatow or any other boy-comedy auteur than to the slick supernatural hokum of M. Night Shyamalan.
This too may be a joke, but I kind of suspect it isnâ€™t. Jeff is obsessed with the movie â€œSigns,â€ Mr. Shyamalanâ€™s 2002 tale of tinfoil hats and alien visitation. Jeff is convinced that ordinary occurrences in his own life have special significance. Is this pothead paranoia, simple stupidity or something more.
Jeffâ€™s older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), would be inclined to choose the second of those options. His contempt for Jeff is magnified by his own delusional self-regard: he likes to think of himself as a winner, a go-getter, a guy who has it all figured out. In other words, he is a sarcastic, insensitive jerk, who sports a desperate goatee and spends money he doesnâ€™t have on a sports car, infuriating his wife, Linda (Judy Greer). â€œIâ€™m trying to be a grown-up,â€ she sighs, which is usually what the women say in movies like this one.
But Ms. Greer is an actress whose crooked smile and sweet chirp of a voice mask formidable emotional power. She used it to devastating effect in â€œThe Descendantsâ€ and here again, in a single, pivotal scene, she helps to jolt the film out of its coy zaniness into a zone of real pain and frustration. Mr. Helms, playing a bit against type â€" heâ€™s often a goofball, but rarely a mean guy â€" is agile and intuitive enough to follow along.
â€œJeff, Who Lives at Homeâ€ takes place within a single, eventful day, during which Pat tests out his new Porsche and discovers that Linda might be cheating on him. Jeff, meanwhile, faces the (for him) equally daunting challenge of running a simple errand for his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon). For her part Sharon finds her dull routine upended by instant messages from a secret admirer who may be a co-worker.
Itâ€™s a crazy day, and the Duplasses, aided by the sometimes forced jauntiness of Michael Andrewsâ€™s musical score, make it seem at once wildly farcical and fairly ordinary. A pall of middle-class anxiety hangs over the charactersâ€™ lives as they try to turn mediocre cards into winning hands. Sharon works in a drab little cubicle, doing something not worth talking about for a company whose business is never identified. We know from Patâ€™s uniform that he sells paint, but the filmmakers donâ€™t follow him to work, and nobody believes his self-aggrandizing talk of â€œbusiness meetings.â€ Jeffâ€™s rhetoric of destiny, vague and pathetic though it may be, is also an implicit critique of the way the pursuit of happiness can resemble a cruel con.
The magical thinking that erupts in the last minutes of the movie may therefore represent an extravagant, Utopian protest against the way the world really is. The ending is also a test of the audienceâ€™s openness to the kind of fantasy mocked, at the outset, by everyone in Jeffâ€™s life, including the filmmakers. They want to make us believe in something, though itâ€™s also possible that they are only fooling.