Jeff, Who Live At Home is the latest creation from the Duplass brothers. Previously, and most notably, the brothers directed/wrote, Cyrus, which was quite the hit for an indie film. “Hit” is relative, I mean that it was well received, critically, and the audience dug it as well. I was one of the people who did not like Cyrus, and not because I thought it was poorly crafted, I just didn’t care for the tone of the film. Cyrus played heavily into making the audience feel awkward, and I just felt it was too much after a certain point. Loved the cast, but couldn’t get behind it.
That’s why I was a bit afraid of watching Jeff, Who Lives At Home. I figured it was going to be more of the same and I didn’t want to waste my money. The trailers made it seem more likable than Cyrus, so I took a gamble. I enjoyed Jeff, Who Lives At Home more than I should have, for its message was trivial, but its pursuit of family togetherness won me over.
Jeff (Jason Segel) lives at home. He spends his days smoking pot, watching T.V. and following the notion that “everything happens for a reason.” A mysterious phone call sets Jeff off into thinking that he needs to look for a person named Kevin, and on his way to run an errand for his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), he detours to do exactly that. Through some terrible events, he runs into his brother, Pat (Ed Helms). Pat is going through a mid-life crisis and his marriage is falling apart. Jeff catches Pat’s wife, Linda (Judy Greer), with another man at a gas station. The two brothers embark on a quest to find out who that man is, and in the interim, find their roles in each other’s lives.
Let me first talk about the only real problem I had with Jeff, Who Lives At Home. The movie starts off with a quote from Jeff in which he says there is cosmic order and blah, blah, blah. I thought Jeff believing in “everything happening for a reason” was only a trait of his personality as a character, but nope, that notion is written into the entire script. I never listen to that philosophy in a movie because you can’t tell me everything happens for a reason if you are a piece of fiction. Of course everything happens in order because IT WAS MADE BY PEOPLE, the script, that is. I am also a man of no faith and I believe the world is nothing more than random occurring events. That is what bothered me about this little, indie film.
Like Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives At Home is ostensibly a subtle comedy. Jokes just sort of happen without any real buildup and laughs catch you by surprise. The film, like Cyrus, goes to some dark places in a family’s life, such as death and divorce. There is nothing comical in the way the Duplass brother present those dark family elements and it creates a rather realistic approach to what humans deal with.
Even with all the nonsense about cosmic order, the script is, on the other end, a story about two brothers finding each other and accepting each other’s faults as people. I never had a brother but the story kept pulling on my heart strings and I started to become affected by their relationship. Segel plays his role well as the hopeless romantic of the universe and though it may seem that he is passive about life, he strives to find that meaning. Helms plays the prick and his narcissism will not allow him to strengthen any relationships in his life. It is interesting to see what events in the film help these two come together as family in the end. The ending moments tie up wonderfully as the different threads come together.
The problem I had with Cyrus is that the awkward humor got in the way of the important message that was hanging behind it. Even with the problems I had with the message of the film, I was able to see the underlying love of family in it. People will undoubtedly enjoy the cosmic order side of things, but that stuff really throws me off. Come for the humor, the darker material, and the touching end to make your experience worthwhile. Just don’t expect the questions of existence to be answered, though.