Jeff, Who Lives at Home annoys, but entertains
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the latest indie flick from indie writers/directors Mark and Jay Duplass starring established Hollywood talent. Jason Segel is the titular Jeff in question; a directionless stoner who pontificates on existentialism and M Night Shyamalan’s Signs (because that’s totally indie) before finding himself wrapped in the midst of a series of contrivanc… sorry, coincidences that illustrate the interconnectivity of the world.
Despite creating an initial Jeff ♥ Huckabees impression, the Duplass’ script soon finds its own footing once Jeff’s brother Pat (Ed Helms) joins the festivities. In the grips of a Porsche wielding mid-life crisis, Pat’s relationship with his fed-up wife Linda (Judy Greer) is the engine under Jeff, Who Lives at Home’s hood. Meanwhile, Susan Sarandon, as the boys’ mother Sharon, experiences her own crisis of sorts, when whilst at work an unexpected (yet ironically-predictable-when-remembering-how-indie-this-all-is) secret admirer stirs up regrets and desires within her. While the story is enjoyable enough, if not as funny as it would be hoped, what grates about Jeff, Who Lives at Home is how pretentious it is. Just look at the title! It shouts “Hey! Hey, look! Totally, unconventional, non-Hollywood movie here, everyone. We’re so indie, check it out!”, which would be fine if it actually was an independent film at heart.
The fact is, Hollywood films pull these same kinds of stories all the time. What is deemed to be an amazing destined occurrence here is typically just a happy coincidence that cinema goers are constantly fed without the existentialism tag. Usually it’s no more than a sign of poor writing, but the suspension of disbelief factor allows for it. Film-makers don’t typically tend to draw attention to how convenient these contrivances are, yet the Duplass brothers’ aren’t really accomplishing anything fresh by highlighting and labelling them. Instead, it’s all dressed up as something deep and meaningful, because that’s so indie. And if that and the title isn’t enough to convince how indie things are here, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is filmed with a digital camcorder that is constantly ZOOMing in AND Out witHOUt any rhyme or reason. Because that is indie, baby! And bloody maddening.
Despite the pointless façade and an office firm alarm scene that will make the eyes of anyone-with-a-pulse roll, Jeff, Who Lives at Home isn’t a bad movie. Segel is decent in a role he could, and possibly did, sleepwalk through. Helms steals the show with his timing and is almost solely responsible for ensuring this film can even be categorised as a comedy. Greer continues to impress in supporting roles, as she did in The Descendants. Sarandon is reliable as always, even when the cringe factor hits 11. The film ends on a strong, slightly predictable note and the story is bookended by a simple, but clever bit of symbolism.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a decent little flick that is hindered by trying way too hard to be cool. There’s little that’s unique to it, despite their cheapest efforts to convince otherwise. Looking beyond the dreadful camera work, it’s an entertaining enough portrayal of one family’s bizarre day while Helms does his best to bring the funny. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s also really, totally indie. 7/10