Ed Helms and Jason Segal are both big comedy television stars, from “The Office” and “How I Met Your Mother,” respectively, but audiences should not be fooled into thinking that their new movie “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is a laugh out loud comedy.
Though the film is funny, this time the actors are allowed to flex their dramatic muscles as well as their comedic ones. The result is a film that is surprisingly and effectively sentimental, without giving up its comedic roots. Helms and Segal star as brothers Pat and Jeff, who, despite sharing blood, have almost nothing in common. Jeff is 30 and stuck in a rut that he shows no desire, or ability, to get out of. Pat is the more put together of the two, but that is not to say that his life is any better; his wife, played by Judy Greer ("Arrested Development," "Miss Guided"), and everybody else who knows him, seems to hate him.
The brothers do have one thing in common — their mother, played by Susan Sarandon, can’t stand either one of them. She is in a rut of her own, feeling lonely and unloved, until a surprise secret admirer comes calling. All of the characters in the film are lost and emotionally damaged, desperately seeking something, or someone, who will put them back on the right path.
There is an interesting, and unexpected, component to this movie: it relies heavily on the notion of fate. At first it is unclear how the filmmakers feel about the concept, and whether they take it seriously at all. At the beginning of the movie Jeff goes on a long diatribe about how the M. Night Shyamalyan movie “Signs” holds all the answers to the universe. “Signs” is a movie that absolutely nobody in real life takes seriously, so it seems that directors Jay and Mark Duplass are turning it into a joke. As the film goes on, though, fate begins to be show as a real concept, and one that should be taken sincerely. The four main characters are constantly coming together through completely random circumstances, as if destiny is guiding them toward where they need to be. It all culminates with them all meeting on a bridge, where the characters all show their real feelings in astonishing ways.
Though the main story was scripted, almost all of the dialogue in the film was improvised on location. This element, and as well as the documentary, fly-on-the-wall, manner that it was filmed in, give the film a very realistic and spontaneous feel and helps it stand out from other similar films. While “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is not completely successful in the execution of all of its ideas, it is still hard to not admire that kind of ambition.
UPDATE: "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," is slated for a March 16, 2012 release.