When I picked the film Jeff Who Lives at Home, I did not know that I was picking another Duplass Brothers film. I’m not upset that they made the film, its just odd that I picked another one after reviewing the Puffy Chair (another Duplass brothers film) just a few weeks ago. Just like The Puffy Chair, Jeff Who Lives at Home was a truly bizarre and unexpected film. The theme of the film is fate and the film looks at three different characters: Jeff, his brother Pat and their mother Sharon. We follow these characters as their stories intertwine and eventually collide.
• Jeff (Jason Segel): Jeff is in his thirties and lives at home with his mother. Jeff is also a pothead and his only job on the day the film takes place is to go and get wood glue. What seems a simple task for most is not so simple for Jeff who sees a pattern to the world that most do not. Today is not just a day in which he has to get wood glue, it is a day that a man named Kevin is supposed to change his life. While venturing out of the house, Jeff follows a string of signs that he believes the world is giving him. The signs lead him to get mugged, find and help his brother (multiple times) and eventually leads him to a traffic jam on a bridge where he must save a family from certain death.
• Pat (Ed Helms): What should have been a normal day turned into a near disaster for Jeff’s older brother. While Jeff is out following the “signs” he stumbles upon his brother. It quickly becomes clear that the two brothers are not as close as they should be, they seem to have trouble understanding each other. Accidentally finding his wife, Linda (Judy Greer), having lunch with another man, Pat realizes his marriage might be in danger. With the help of his brother, Pat embarks on a journey to save his marriage and the two brothers realize how much the mean to one another along the way. The quest leads them to the traffic logged bridge where Pat runs through the lines of stopped cars to find and win the affection of his wife.
• Sharon (Susan Sarandon): In what is one of the oddest story arcs I have seen in quite some time, Sharon is fed up with her life. She is alone, after her husband passed, and annoyed with her job, life and children. Working in a cubical job, Sharon seems to feel empty, desperately searching for something she can’t grasp. When a secret admirer approaches her, claiming to understand her and want to be with her, Sharon allows herself to feel hope. After thinking she got stood up, Sharon’s secret admirer accidentally reveals themselves and inadvertently forces Sharon to make a decision. Her decision, just like her sons’ decisions, leads her to a bridge only to be stuck in a traffic jam where she finds her two sons.
Throughout the course of watching this film, I had trouble deciding if I liked it or not. It was full of dark, dry humor that perfectly offset the overall depressing tone of the film. Beyond a depressing tone, the film also acted like a crescendo. The handheld style of filming and Jeff’s character makes the film seem as if it is building to something epic, something epic that does not fit with the simple plot we have already seen. The more we travel with Jeff the more we realize that there is something bigger happening, there is something beyond what we can see in front of us. The film works to get the audience to follow the signs Jeff is following. When it ends with Jeff and the audience getting their epic moment, it is one of the more satisfying moments in cinema.
I did not realize how much I enjoyed this film until I started reviewing it. Jeff is the oddball in the film, the one that nobody understands but the script and directing almost forces the audience to connect with him. While the other characters are dealing with “normal” problems, the audience gets caught up with Jeff and his grandeur, paying off at the film’s conclusion. I give Jeff Who Lives at Home an 8 out of 10, a score that surprises even me. Give this movie a chance, even if you don’t like it at first. As long as you get invested with the characters, it will pay off in the end.