The brothers Duplass made a big splash in the independent cinema circles with their debut feature The Puffy Chair. From the “mumblecore” school of improvisational films, they relied on a loose framework of a story, and let the actors find much of the dialogue.
Fast forward to Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a charming and funny story of family love, and finding one’s place in the world. Gone are the unknown actors and cheap locations. The Duplass brothers have Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, and Susan Sarandon now.
Jeff (Segel) is a recreational drug enthusiast without a job, who lives in his mom’s (Susan Sarandon) basement. His brother Pat (Helms) is a paint store manager, with a bit of a strained relationship at home with his wife (Judy Greer).
When Jeff is commanded out of his basement to run an errand for his mom, Jeff puts his idea of destiny, which is largely influenced by the movie Signs, to the test. Something goes awry and, destiny or no, he and Pat are left on the trail of Pat’s wife, who may or may not be having an affair.
In some ways Jeff, Who Lives at Home feels like a more suburban version of The Daytrippers, the difference between the two largely being the relatability of the characters. In Daytrippers, there were ostentatious characters who went on an adventure, obscure, insane and louder than life. Jeff is a guy, a normal dude. I’m sure we all know our own version of Jeff. His commitment to his idea of destiny is part of the charm of the character.
Most everyone, at least all of the principals, give great performances. Helms’ paint store manager feels disturbingly like anyone who has ever tried to sell me a car, Sarandon’s cubicle inhabiting Sharon screams frustration in every silent glassy stare, and ultimately Segel’s Jeff is steadfast, but never over the top as a dreamer who dreams smaller than most.
Well acted, well written, low key in a nice way, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the perfect antidote to a summer of glitzy Hollywood spectacles. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 6/19/12