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+