83 min., dir. by Jay and Mark Duplass, with Jason Segel, Ed Helms, and Susan Sarandon
We all float through points in our lives feeling incomplete. Some people think they can buy their way to fulfillment, while others seek a more spiritual journey. Jeff, Who Lives at Home, is the light-hearted tale of a family of three, as one day of awkward coincidences shines a light on their ever-growing issues. Treated with a delicate touch by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a nice little slice of self-discovery pie.
Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30-year-old stoner who lives in his mother’s basement. In between toking bowls, he obsesses over the movie Signs. Jeff believes that everyone, like the characters in Signs, are receiving important messages every day, but no one is looking out for them. He knows he’s destined for great things; he’s just waiting for a signal to tell him what to do. When someone dials a wrong number and calls Jeff asking to speak to Kevin, Jeff sees it as his sign, but what does it mean? He tries to shake it off, but when he leaves the house at his mother’s request to buy wood glue to fix a broken shutter, Jeff beings to see more signs. These signs ultimately bring him in contact with his brother Pat (Ed Helms), as well as Pat’s unhappy wife Linda, their mother, and a few bystanders. All of them become a part of this tale of chance.
There are people who are going to see this film, and automatically think it’s trying to say, “Watch for your signs.” In actuality, the characters are more like the slated wooden window shade that Jeff is supposed to fix. They’re well-functioning, solid structures, who just need a little piece of them fixed. All of them are obviously affected by the death of Jeff and Pat’s father, but none of them searched their own hearts for a way to properly move on in the 17 years since he passed. While Jeff’s coast-through-life attitude is nothing to be proud of, it’s his drive to find something that fixes the others, even if that wasn’t his intention.
Laughs and smiles are sprinkled through-out Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Fair amounts are provided through the script, and others from the general playfulness of Jason Segel and Ed Helms. The film does give them a chance to stretch their talent though and they have some terrific dramatic turns as the film nears its close. Both men have had their moments of tortured weakness on film, but they display a different level of emotion this time, and they do it well. The entire cast, which includes Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer (Hollywood’s most underappreciated genius), and Rae Dawn Chong, helps to pull together a nice little film that doesn’t oversell some common ideas in a new shell. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a lovely little piece that can work on a superficial level if that’s all you want, but has more for those who want to dig.