Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a movie that’s over before you know it, and it works well because of it. The film runs at a brief 83 minutes and the events take place over a single day; however, it’s so well paced that if the film were any longer it would actually make the story weaker.
The story, while focused on Jeff (Jason Segel), is actually about his entire family, which consists of his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), and his brother, Pat (Ed Helms), and their relationship with one another. Jeff, who, well, lives at home, opens the film talking about his favourite movie Signs, and how he believes that, like in Signs, everything in the universe is connected and happens for a reason – you just have to pay attention to the signs pointing you towards your destiny.
It’s with this belief that Jeff heads out on a simple trip to Home Depot to buy some glue to fix a shutter, and quickly finds himself on a journey that will see him following various “signs” that he believes are happening for a reason, and might just change his life, and the life of those around him forever.
I won’t delve into the story too much, as it’s much more fun to watch it unfold over the short period of these characters’ lives. What I will say is that this is a moving story that touches on very real problems between families and couples, yet does so through various light-hearted and comedic situations. This decision helps keep the pacing of the film fluent, while also hitting multiple poignant notes that help keep the viewer emotionally invested.
The film was written and directed by both Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus, Baghead) who have a way of making even everyday life entertaining. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a very simple story, that has very specific focuses, and yet it somehow feels so much bigger once all is said and done. The dialogue exchanged throughout the film sounds real and sincere, not contrived, and the situations the characters continuously find themselves in are all for a reason, even if they may fall upon them through comedic happenstance.
The Duplass brothers also use a handheld type camera technique that puts the viewer into the situation with the characters, zooming in quickly on a reaction shots, while also having a slight shake to many scenes that would usually be still. At first this was slightly distracting, and some may find it more so, especially if you don’t watch shows like The Office, and have no previous experience with it; however, I found some time during the second act, when there was more movement and less simple back and forth conversations, the technique worked and I stopped being aware that it was happening.
The acting in the film is top notch, with Segel continuing to impress with his range. And while he’s a tall guy, he’s also got a softness to his look that helps give Jeff the disarming demeanor needed in order to make the audience feel like even though this guy could be an imposing force, he’s really just a big teddy bear looking to find his way. Segel is also the one who is tasked with emotionally investing the audience in the story, and he does that extremely well by giving off the aura of being the underdog we want to see succeed.
Helms is also great as Jeff’s polar opposite brother Pat. At first, Pat is a character that audiences are instinctively going to dislike, simply because he just comes off as a bit too high and mighty for his own good; however, as he and Jeff interact, it’s soon revealed that Pat is a guy in a situation that many can likely relate with. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but Helms does it really well, and his chemistry with Segel is also spot-on.
While the main story focuses on Jeff and Pat, and their quest to find out if Pat’s wife (played perfectly by the lovely Judy Greer) is cheating on him, there’s a side story involving their mother, Sharon, who finds out she has a secret admirer at work, and looks to find out who it is. The story fits right in to the themes and ideas that the film is trying to get across, and Sarandon does the role great justice, and helps make her story just as interesting as the main plot.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is an entertaining film with some great thematic elements to it, and a story that’s filled with characters in situations that have a certain mystical element to them for the sake of the film’s overall premise. And while the filmmakers could have chosen to delve deeper into the characters, and stretch things out, they instead went with a briskly paced film that answers the questions it needs to in order to get the necessary points across in a fast, yet enjoyable and touching manner.
The film looks great on Blu-ray with a solid transfer on the visual front. The colours are deep, and the tones look great. The audio also comes across quite well, with the dialogue, music and sounds all coming through clear, with no muffled words or lowered volumes throughout.
Unfortunately, there are no special features to be found on this release.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a touching, moving film that has moments of humour mixed in. It’s not a film that will have you laughing out loud constantly, as that’s not the goal of the film, though that doesn’t mean there won’t be a smile on your face throughout. Highly recommended.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Written and Directed by: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass. Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer. Running time: 83 minutes. Rating: R. Released: June 19, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Ed Helms, Jason Segel, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon