- Beretta leaves Maryland over gun laws, heads for Tennessee
- Neal Boortz defends Hillary Clinton for representing child rapist
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’
Question of the Day
Filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass have stitched together a slight, offbeat celebration of serendipity that exults in its own discomfiting mix of snark and sincerity.
The Duplass brothers, known to art-house audiences for “The Puffy Chair,” are progenitors of an ill-defined genre known as “mumblecore,” typified by the use of hand-held cameras and improvisational acting styles. (Perhaps it isn’t so much a genre as it is the inevitable result of putting low-cost digital-video cameras in the hands of a self-obsessed generation of filmmakers.)
In any case, this fidgety, do-it-yourself style is at work in “Jeff, Who Lives At Home,” despite the presence of name-brand actors, including comedy stars Jason Segel as Jeff and Ed Helms as his brother Pat. The movie is shot almost entirely in close-up. Sudden jerky adjustments and quick zooms give it a documentary flavor, but unlike a documentary, “Jeff” makes a virtue of improbability and coincidence.
It’s the story of a day in the life of an unemployed pot-smoking slacker who lives in the basement of his mother’s house in Baton Rouge, La. He’s at a crossroads in his life — torn between dwelling on the death of his father and looking to the future to discover the mysterious, hidden purposes that guide his life.
The movie makes frequent allusions to the M. Night Shyamalan alien-invasion film “Signs.” Jeff identifies with the character played by Joaquin Phoenix — the former baseball prospect living at home who discovers he was put on Earth to help suppress an alien invasion with a few swings of his mighty bat.
The use of the ludicrous and much-maligned “Signs” as a kind of signifier is itself telling, apparently cluing the audience into the wry, sardonic intelligence at work here. But this ironic tone is gently undercut by the events of the movie.
As the movie opens, Jeff is tasked by his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), with buying some wood glue to fix a broken louver on a closet door. He also receives a wrong-number phone call from someone looking to speak to “Kevin.” The name “Kevin” begins to appear throughout Jeff’s day in odd places — on the back of a basketball jersey, on a delivery truck.
By following these signs, Jeff discovers the secrets of his brother’s failing marriage and tracks Pat’s wife, Linda (Judy Greer), to a possible assignation. The lattice of coincidence also ensnares Sharon and her lonely, amorous colleague Carol (Rae Dawn Chong).
The movie turns out to be a bit of a tear-jerker, but the emotion feels contrived and wrung out. At odd moments, simple keyboard music blurts almost out of nowhere, to cue an emotional response.
The performances are naturalistic and straightforward, but there’s something about “Jeff” that does not feel authentic or honest. In the end, it’s impossible to know whether it’s crying with you or laughing at you.
TITLE: “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”
CREDITS: Written and directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
RATING: R for frequent profanity
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
TWT Video Picks
The president could pay the full price for ignoring Congress
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- 'Straight White Guy Festival' supposedly set for Ohio park
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- BERMAN & MADYOON: An Iranian-Turkish reset
- MAY: Barbarians at Jordan's gate
- EDITORIAL: Obamacare in intensive care
- Pentagon team dispatched to Ukraine amid crisis with Russia
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq