Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Directed by Jay & Mark Duplass
A somewhat dark, yet uplifting indie comedy/drama with good performances and an adequate script, Jeff, Who Lives At Home is nothing particularly memorable, but certainly worth watching.
As a whole, the acting in this movie is quite good. Jason Segal and Ed Helms, both of which often appearing largely in comedies, handle their dramatic material surprisingly well, successfully balancing genuine emotion with humor. Other cast members, which include Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer, provide strong support, never stealing the spotlight and bringing much needed sincerity to their roles. When emotion is required, the actors can pull it off, and during comedic moments, they're all very much at home. Excellent casting.
I feel Sarandon's side-story was largely unneeded. The film's general message regarding fate and how "everything happens for a reason" aren't totally lost on it, but the indirect correlation to the main focus of the film makes it feel irrelevant. The fact that most of the movie focuses on Segal and Helms' stories which intertwine and persistently coincide with the central themes of the film makes this subplot feel wholly unnecessary and tacked-on for the sole purpose of boosting the film's short running time. In ways, this story ties in with the rest, but not in a clear-cut way that adequately justifies its existence. That's not to say this plot-line is necessarily "bad", it's just out of place.
Equal parts comedy and drama, this is fairly standard indie fare - with its dry charm and over-arching, broad message - but enjoyable nonetheless. It tells its story, delivers its message, and provides some laughs along the way. It's certainly possible to become emotionally invested, but the film-makers present this possibility in a way without making you feel manipulated into doing so. The characters feel real enough to connect with, and along with the general feeling of hope this movie has in abundance, it's not hard to find yourself rooting for them by the end of the film. Though many of the interactions feel very staged and the confrontations a bit forced, there's an honesty at the heart of these moments that make them work.
In the end, whether or not you'll like this movie almost solely relies on your reaction to the ending. You will most likely either find it profound and uplifting, or convoluted and sappy. Coincidence, timing, and fate are key aspects of this movie, so unless you're unable to accept the notion of destiny within the context of the movie, you should find the ending quite fitting. I know I did, and in many ways it was due to this seemingly random ending that I felt pulled the whole film together nicely.