This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: September 19th, 2014 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Shawn Levy Actors: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer

 


 

W

hen Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), working as a producer for Bolt Satellite Radio’s popular host Wade (Dax Shepard), arrives home on his wife Quinn’s (Abigail Spencer) birthday to find her in bed with his boss, he’s immediately and understandably distraught. As he finds a new place to crash and lets the days pass, ignoring frequent calls from Quinn, he receives more bad news from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey): their father has passed away. Forced to return to his childhood home where his eccentric mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) grieves, Judd is in for an unpleasant shock as his family and friends gather for a weeklong shivah (a formal Jewish mourning), consisting of no work and no travel – and he’s assigned temporary residency in a poorly lit, hazardously wired basement.

Hillary penned the book “Cradle and All: The Study of the New Family,” which described in excruciating detail the private adolescent routines of the Altman children. The eldest, Paul (Corey Stoll), contends with keeping up the family store, while his wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn) is overly desperate to have a child; Philip (Adam Driver), the youngest, is the black sheep, focused on entrepreneurial activities (currently, part of an alternative fuel think tank in D.C.) that never amount to much, and is dating much older therapist Tracy (Connie Britton), who knows she’s too good for a brash fling; and Wendy, though married to Barry (Aaron Lazar) and caring for two toddlers, can’t shake feelings she had for neighbor Horry (Timothy Olyphant), a man with a brain injury that occurred long ago when they dated. If all of the Altmans’ relationship problems (on top of his father’s death) weren’t enough for Judd to cope with, he also repeatedly runs into Penny (Rose Byrne), the girl who had a crush on him while growing up in the sleepy town.

Judd’s present existence is so cataclysmically screwed up, it makes it difficult to interact comfortably with people from his past. Not only does he worry about how things will turn out with Quinn, he also manages depressing meditations on hindsight, remembrance, nostalgia, mistakes, lies, underachievement, and the loss of love. The mood is dreary and the plot formulaic, even with a couple of additional complications thrown in for futile comic relief. Are all of Judd’s interplays about therapeutic candidness? Or the importance of family? Or that life is supposed to be messy and complicated? Or are they all just random, melancholy happenings during an ordinary week of dysfunctional sibling rivalries, pettiness, and bickering as they’re crammed together under one roof?

In the end, it seems as if the audience is eavesdropping on someone else’s shrink session, where humor is supposed to be derived from a baby flinging feces, Hillary’s oversized breasts peeking through a nightgown, the trading of embarrassing schoolyard stories, verbal outbursts, and off-color sexual commentary. Something unexpected is always about to happen, but then doesn’t; downward spirals never explode into maddening moments of originality and jokes flounder. The number of incidents of infidelity and broken hearts are at a high; several of the characters are high on marijuana (during a scene in which the actors are clearly having more fun than viewers will have witnessing it); and high hopes are dashed as the film draws to a close without any genuinely moving revelations or connections. Apologies, forgiveness, and reconciliations occur exactly as anticipated, but the usually comedic cast is disappointingly wasted.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10