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Jeff, Who Lives at Home

by on March 18, 2012
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Understated comedies just so happen to be my favorite brand of humor. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these films, they are oftentimes hit or miss. “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” did not meet my expectations, but I ended up enjoying it nonetheless. Surprisingly, the film is best enjoyed as a coming-of-age drama rather than a comedy.

If I were to best describe the movie, I would say it’s a dark comedy wrapped up inside a family drama. Jason Segel plays the title character, a stoner who lives with his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Jeff holds a unique perspective on life and destiny, one that leaves him misunderstood by his family — especially his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms). Pat is more career-driven and focuses importance on material possessions. They are at odds until they are brought together under the pretense of Pat’s crumbling marriage to Linda (Judy Greer). When they see Linda having lunch with another man, Pat and Jeff take it upon themselves to follow her and find out for sure what’s going on. Along the way, the pair experiences a series of life-changing events that brings them closer than they ever thought possible.

Their clash is the film’s main source of humor — Jeff believing firmly in the power of predestination while Pat holds a far more self-centered nature. Their sibling rivalry is genuinely funny, but again, it’s not that type of movie. I foresee this plot surprising some people.

Meanwhile, Sharon is entering a sort of midlife crisis and is at her wits’ end with Jeff slumming around the house. Her role counterbalances the chaotic nature of the two sons rather nicely. The subplot of her trying to fall in love again brings a much needed sense of warmth and endearment to the film.

The movie deals with adult issues such as divorce, losing loved ones and finding your place in this world from a philosophical perspective rather than a comedic one. The second half of the movie, in particular, takes a concerted, serious turn as the family is brought together under peculiar circumstances. That’s not to say that “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is a bad film. It’s well put-together, but I wouldn’t go into it expecting a laugh riot. The misleading nature of the trailers make it out to be a stoner comedy, when in fact it’s more Wes Anderson than Judd Apatow.

Part of what makes understated comedies so great is the relatable nature of the jokes. The bickering between Jeff and Pat personally reminded me of the relationship I have with my brother. It’s the type of movie that will leave you with a greater appreciation for the ones closest to you. The journey from beginning to end sputters at times as the comedic relief comes in waves, yet that sort of staggered pacing is the perfect representation of the chaotic relationships exhibited in the movie. The climax of the film in particular is a perfect culmination of all the awkward tension that precedes it. When left to their own devices the brothers cling to what they are most familiar with … family.

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” may not be the laugh riot you were hoping for, but you’ll walk away feeling soulfully satisfied.