Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)

Directed by Mark & Jay Duplass

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Some movies shove intimacy into plot because it seems like they have to.  The Duplass brothers do the inverse.  Their movies are all about the eventual, revealing quiet moments between two characters, and everything else is constructed just to deliver those moments.  Jeff, Who Lives at Home finds several poignant moments of vulnerability between its characters as they confront what has been teased to us throughout the movie, that their lives have fallen apart.

Well to some degree.  What matters is that they think their lives have fallen apart, and they are working through different ways of finding their way back home.

Jeff (Jason Segel) and Pat (Ed Helms) are brothers and are very different people.  Jeff lives in his mother Sharon’s (Susan Sarandon) basement, and Pat buys into the idea that a new flashy car he can’t afford will solve the problems in his marriage.  Sharon, for her part, is about to discover a new, unexpected romantic interest in her life on the same day Jeff’s and Pat’s worlds change for the better.

So it’s a pretty substantial day in Baton Rouge for this family which seems to be drifting apart.  It begins with Jeff receiving a call from a wrong number demanding to talk to Kevin.  He quickly obsesses and picks over the name until while out on an errand he sees someone wearing a jersey with “Kevin” on the back.  He follows this young man to a basketball court, plays a pickup game, then is lured into a trap where he is mugged.

It’s after this that he crosses paths with Pat outside of a Hooter’s, and not long after they find Pat’s wife Linda (Judy Greer) with another man.  The plot concerns their haphazard investigation which leads to the aforementioned moments of intimacy.

Though plot often functions as it does here, it’s never as transparent and even goofy as it is in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.  This isn’t a bad thing, by any means, because the film embraces the inherent lunacy of a plot which balances all these set ups and payoffs, particularly as life isn’t really like that.  It works because Jeff believes in signs given to him by the universe and, because of that, fate.  He’s looking for the clues which we might not find in every day life but which are certainly there in the context of a movie.

There are more than a few coincidences here but they all work because it’s part of the movie’s theme.  These splintered lives are all brought together throughout the film and again in a rather showy but moving (I think) finale involving a car that has crashed into the water below a short bridge.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is sometimes overly sentimental, but then we catch up and it earns such emotion.  These characters are easy to love, particularly Jeff, and perhaps just because of their intense honesty at some point in the film we feel for them.  They wear their hearts on their sleeves, some just not right away, and as a whole the movie does too.

Up Next: The Weather Man (2005), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Legend of Cocaine Island (2018)

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