The Duplass Brothers have an earnestness and a fondness for their characters that cannot be denied. Their films are about the characters rather than getting caught up in the details of stories. Their newest film, Jeff, Who Lives At Home, is about a slacker obsessed with destiny, trying to divine coherence out of vague signs. On paper this sounds like a trippy parody of the Hero’s Journey structure most big scale Hollywood films adhere to. In a sense it still is but with a real investment in the characters.
Helping matters is the great acting; Segel imbues Jeff with his natural charm and Helms is equal parts riotous and pathetic (in an endearing way). The chemistry between them seems second nature and their conflict is humorous and authentic. Sarandon is charming enough despite her subplot being a tad inconsequential. Greer and Chong provide ample support.
The film’s tone veers between comic and tragic almost effortlessly. The Duplass Brothers recognize both the inherent humor and sadness in their characters and the film projects that feeling accordingly. The film is surprisingly lean both in time and in themes; it seems hyper focused on the characters at the expense of a big thematic idea or a deep story. This isn’t a bad thing; however, it makes the scope of the film feel small. Granted, the ending is surprisingly bombastic compared to the rest of the movie but it’s also fitting and satisfyingly cinematic. Jeff, Who Lives At Home demands nor promises much but it’s well paced, honest and comforting. It can be slightly self-aggrandizing at times but it works thanks to the earnestness of the filmmakers.
- Rated: R
- Comedy, Drama
- Release Date: 3/16/2012
- Directed by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
- Starring: Ed Helms, Jason Segel, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Susan Sarandon
- Produced by: Helen Estabrook, Jason Reitman, Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith, Steven Rales
- Written by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
- Studio: Indian Paintbrush, Mr. Mudd, Paramount Vantage, Right of Way Films