March 26, 2012

MOVIES: Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass, 2012)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a shambling story of a family whose members are all facing small-scale emotional crises on the same day. It's not a major movie, but it's appealing in a low-key way, and has a fine cast that elevates the material as much as possible.

Jason Segal is Jeff, a 30-year-old pothead who still lives in his mother's basement; his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), seems to have his act together, but his wife, Carol (Judy Greer), feels neglected, and their marriage is on the verge of collapse.

Meanwhile, their mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) is getting through another boring day as a cubicle drone, trying to figure out which of her co-workers is sending her anonymous text messages claiming to be her secret admirer. She's kept apart from the other principal cast members until the end of the story, and her plotline is the least interesting part of the movie.

But when Helms and Segal are on screen together, wandering around Baton Rouge trying to figure out if Carol is having an affair, they're remarkably convincing brothers, and their relationship is terrifically entertaining. Segal is particularly good, and is becoming a master of using his height and size to comic effect.

I do wish the movie had made better use of its setting; if you're going to bother going outside the usual NY/LA/Chicago settings to a more distinctive place, it would be nice to give us a feel for that place instead of letting it feel like just another boring suburban wasteland.

Certainly nothing you have to rush to the multiplex to see (though it would be nice to show support for a movie that's aimed at a higher intellectual level than Franchise XIV: The Return of the Son of the Bride of Wolverine), but it was a pleasant 90 minutes.

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