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Susan Granger's review of 'Jeff Who Lives at Home'

Published 11:18 am, Tuesday, April 10, 2012
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The writing/directing team of Mark and Day Duplass has staunchly resisted Hollywood's monetary lure, preferring to make their own independent movies since they began, as children, growing up in Louisiana. And that southern state is where their latest effort is situated.

Living in his enabling mother's basement, scruffy 30 year-old Jeff (Jason Segel) has never grown up. He firmly believes that "everyone and everything is interconnected in this universe," referring to M. Night Shyamalan's movie "Signs," which he watches obsessively while smoking weed from a bong. So when he answers a wrong number from a random caller demanding to chat with someone named Kevin and is forced to leave the house to buy wood glue to fix a kitchen cupboard door, Jeff reads deep significance into the fact that he sees a young man on the bus with `Kevin' on the back of his basketball jersey, follows him and gets mugged in a bad neighborhood of Baton Rouge.

Jeff is a constant irritation to his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), a Poplar Paint Company salesman, who is so obsessed with owning a new Porsche that he neglects his marriage to miserable Linda (Judy Greer), who may or may not be having an affair -- and the suspicion finds Pat and Jeff teaming up as sleuths. Then there's Jeff's weary, hard-working, widowed mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), who pours over flirtatious messages from an anonymous admirer that appear on her office computer, trying to decipher them with her gay pal Carol (Rae Dawn Chong).

Since their first film, "The Puffy Chair" (2005), the Duplass brothers have been intrigued by true-to-life interpersonal relationships, utilizing improvised "mumblecore" dialogue, a hand-held camera and a cast often consisting of close friends. Their second effort, "Baghead" (2008), was a horror satire, followed by "Cyrus" (2010) with Jonah Hill as a teenager fighting against his single mother's budding romance.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jeff Who Lives at Home" is an absurdist 6, chronicling a cosmic incident in the drab life of a slacker/stoner.