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Jeff, Who Lives At Home - Review

Jeff, Who Lives At Home

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

HATS off to both Jason Segel and brothers Jay and Mark Duplass for making Jeff, Who Lives At Home such a winning combination of stoner comedy and moving family drama.

Rich in character, liberally sprinkled with feel-good movie magic and yet mindful of the mumblecore values that first earned the Duplass brothers their spurs, this is a funny and quite often touching comedy drama that, in lesser hands, would have been easy not to care about.

Admittedly, the plot doesn’t really offer many hints to the delights that lie in store given that it focuses on Jeff (Segel), a man who lives in his mum’s basement believing that nothing in life happens without reason (his favourite movie is Signs), and who determines to put this theory into practice after receiving a disturbing phone call and setting out to buy some wood glue.

However, as Jeff’s day unfolds he gets involved in a series of encounters that lend further credence to his convictions, including helping his idiot brother (Ed Helms) out with his marriage crisis, while his mother (Susan Sarandon) experiences her own awakening of sorts.

Taken at face value, Jeff, Who Lives At Home could be perceived as another quirky indie comedy that offers only limited appeal. Yet scratch that surface and there’s a whole lot more to enjoy.

The Duplass brothers’ screenplay is full of wry, insightful observations and cares enough about its characters to make them appear anything but stereotypes. Segel, too, works hard to ensure that Jeff never becomes an unlikeable, uninteresting slacker but rather a deep thinker whose optimistic outlook on life eventually becomes infectious to those around him. Put together with his excellent work on The Muppets, this is a really great year for him.

Helms is great, too, as his highly strung brother, whose disdain for Jeff slowly mellows throughout the course of the day, while Sarandon is typically impressive as the put-upon mother who has surprises in store herself (mostly from a secret office admirer).

The mix of comedy and drama is superbly realised, ensuring that there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well as quieter, more intimate ones designed to really make the characters endearing. The finale manages to be both inspiring and poignant.

And yet one suspects that Jeff, Who Lives At Home will still have to work hard to find the wide audience it really deserves given that it does wear its indie and mumblecore sensibilities on its sleeve at times, as well as allowing Segel and Helms to improvise where possible (with predictably hit-and-miss results).

But while no movie can ever really be perfect, this comes so darn close to make it worth shouting from the rooftops about going to see. At just 83 minutes, too, it’s one of those rare movies that comes to an end too soon, while filling you with some of Jeff’s unflappable hope.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 83mins
UK Release Date: May 11, 2012