Northeast Times

‘Jeff’ is a likable guy, not your typical slacker

Jason Se­gel plays Jeff, who lives at home and doesn’t have much go­ing on in his life.

Start­Frag­ment

Jeff, Who Lives at Home has a fairly ba­sic setup — a day in the life of a 30-year-old stoner who lives in his mom’s base­ment in Bat­on Rouge, La. — but it winds up be­ing more than just a typ­ic­al stoner com­edy. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny very of­ten, but more of an ab­surd­ist-hu­mor-at-work here.

The stoner is Jeff (Jason Se­gel), who has re­cently watched M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signs and now thinks everything is a clue to­ward his des­tiny. When the phone rings and the per­son on the oth­er end of the line de­mands to speak to Kev­in, Jeff isn’t sure if it’s a simple wrong num­ber or a sign of something more.

Pat (Ed Helms) is Jeff’s older broth­er, and he is hav­ing a mid­life crisis com­poun­ded by mar­it­al prob­lems with his wife Linda (Judy Greer). By chance, Jeff and Pat run in­to each oth­er in town, and they see Linda out with an­oth­er man. Of course, Jeff and Pat have to fol­low Linda and the mys­tery man to find out if they are hav­ing an af­fair. This leads to a big blow-up between Pat and Linda, and their mar­riage tee­ter­ing on the edge of de­struc­tion.

Shar­on (Susan Saran­don), moth­er to Jeff and Pat, spends day in and day out in her bor­ing cu­bicle at work. It would really make her day if Jeff would leave the house to go buy some wood glue to fix the blinds. Shar­on is the fo­cus of a sec­ond­ary plot with a “secret ad­mirer” co-work­er who sends her flirty in­stant mes­sages (though the iden­tity of the ad­mirer is pretty ob­vi­ous early on if you’re ob­ser­v­ant).

The movie is more about the dis­con­nec­ted broth­ers find­ing com­mon ground than about all the oth­er things go­ing on, and it suc­ceeds be­cause of the ca­marader­ie between Se­gel and Helms.

The movie also suc­ceeds be­cause of the im­mensely likable cast. Jeff may be a 30-year-old un­em­ployed guy with no friends or girl­friend, but Se­gel nicely plays him sym­path­et­ic­ally and sweetly, in­stead of as a run-of-the-mill slack­er or loser. Helms plays yet an­oth­er vari­ation of his Andy Bern­ard from The Of­fice char­ac­ter — this time he’s a paint sales­man ex­per­i­en­cing a mid­life crisis. Aside from Se­gel, Greer is a real standout in her sup­port­ing role (check her out in The Des­cend­ants for an­oth­er good per­form­ance).

Writer/dir­ect­or broth­ers Jay and Mark Du­plass (who wrote and dir­ec­ted 2010’s Cyr­us, a flick worth check­ing out) still main­tain their quirky in­die vibe while mov­ing more to­ward main­stream movie­mak­ing. Jeff, Who Lives at Home em­ploys some shaky cam and quick cuts and zooms, but it isn’t over­whelm­ing or an­noy­ing.

The film’s 88-minute run time is short, but def­in­itely packs a punch. The movie goes in an un­ex­pec­ted dir­ec­tion to­ward the end — rarely does a plot twist truly sur­prise me, but this one did in a good way. Some may ar­gue the end­ing is im­plaus­ible or un­be­liev­able, but I bought it.

As far as draw­backs, Jeff, Who Lives at Home some­times felt a bit dis­join­ted. It was mainly the sub­plot with the moth­er that seemed like it didn’t quite fit. A story about the two broth­ers would have been per­fectly suit­able.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home isn’t ne­ces­sar­ily re­volu­tion­ary or ground­break­ing, but it is a movie with a sweet, sin­cere story and a good mix of drama and com­edy.

Movie Grade: B+

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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