Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

"High concept" is Hollywood-ese for movies that can be summed up in a single sentence. It's usually reserved for blockbusters like Die Hard which became its own shorthand for high concept with the numerous copycats that followed it being described as "Die Hard on a Bus," "Die Hard on a Plane"--you get the idea. Ironically, the indie flick Jeff, Who Lives at Home manages to convey its concept with less than a sentence in its title.

The "Jeff" is question is played by Jason Segel who's made a career out of playing the overgrown man-child. His enormous size and hangdog expressions really contribute to the character of the basement-dwelling, pot smoking, 30 year-old with a severe case of arrested development due to the untimely death of his father when he was young.

His brother, Pat (played by Ed Helms) suffers a similar case of stunted growth--lacking a role model for becoming a man although he is employed and married, unlike Jeff.

But back to Jeff, whose belief system is built upon the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs as he approaches commonplace occurrences like wrong numbers as messages from the universe as to his destiny. After experiencing said wrong number while smoking a bong and watching an infomercial on TV, Jeff sets out on a fatalistic journey that is the basis of action for the rest of the movie. His journey has him crossing paths with his estranged brother Pat (twice) which only furthers his interpretation of meaning.

As Jeff's journey becomes subsumed by Pat's marital difficulties, the film starts to resemble the 1996 indie flick, The Daytrippers. Written and directed by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, the film does explore the relationship between the two brothers--as well as Pat's relationship with his long-suffering wife Linda (Judy Greer) and the tension between the sons and their uptight mother (Susan Sarandon)--but mostly it's Jeff's journey to discover his destiny which he does in a big way in the climatic ending.

As such, the film is highly dependent on Segel's ability to walk the fine line between adorable and annoyance, which he manages with ease. Although a fairly lightweight piece of whimsy, the Duplass brothers along with their talented cast manage to make this day-in-a-life film "the best day in the history of the whole world."

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