Jeff, Who Lives at Home (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass. Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon.
Shallowness isn’t necessarily a mark of shame for a film, but there’s nothing quite so offensive as a shallow film convinced it is deep.
That’s Jeff, Who Lives at Home: a desperately quirky indie-style drama that’s smug-drunk on its own stupidity.
The Jeff of the title (Jason Segel) is a 30-something idealist living in his mom’s basement as he waits for life to come and find him.
If Jeff is immature, it might be because he grew up around a mother (Susan Sarandon) and a brother (Ed Helms) who, like every character in this film, lack the basic coping and decision-making skills required to survive a day on Planet Earth.
That’s probably why the plot takes place in a single day; any longer and we would have had to watch the entire cast accidentally drink paint thinner or drown in the shower, putting a downer on the movie’s upbeat tone.
The story begins with Jeff leaving the house one day to seek home improvement supplies and his destiny. What follows is a rambling, pointless adventure brought on by the bumbling antics of a bunch of grown adults who act like 13-year-olds and are celebrated for it by the film. How offbeat.
One might reasonably assume that the trite and childish credo espoused by Jeff—a jobless pothead who thinks the movie Signs is a great philosophical text and that a wrong number on his phone must be a message from fate—is meant to be taken ironically. It becomes steadily apparent, however, that the filmmakers are playing this straight. The answer to every conflict in the film is “Jeff is right, everyone else is wrong,” with a touch of “everything happens for a reason,” “stay pure of heart and you will see the signs,” and any other Oprah-esque banalities you might care to list off.
The story feels suspiciously like a stream-of-consciousness plot dump written by someone (the film’s directors, in fact, as is usually the case with scripts this bad) who wrote each scene without the slightest idea of what would come next. The running theme of “fate” amounts to nothing more than a crutch allowing random story developments to occur not as a consequence of previous events, but because “destiny did it.”
Yes, everything ties together in the end, at least in the sense that all of the characters end up physically in the same place. It doesn’t change the fact that tying together a whole pile of little nothings only gets you one great big nothing. The movie is boring.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is not so much a story as an attempt to pad a pot-induced 3 am religious epiphany out to feature film length. At less than an hour and 20 minutes running time, it doesn’t even manage that.
Jay and Mark Duplass would have been better off filming themselves sitting on a couch and telling the camera, “Dude, what if all the things are like, different sides of the same thing?”
Rated R for adult non-humor.
2 out of 5