Friday, September 19

REVIEW: This Is Where I Leave You

Directed by Shawn Levy
2014 Comedy Drama
1 hour 43 minutes
From Warner Bros

Jason Bateman
Tina Fey
Adam Driver
Rose Byrne
Corey Stoll
Timothy Olyphant
Connie Britton
Kathryn Hahn
Dax Shepard
Debra Monk
Abigail Spencer
Jane Fonda

I've read some less-than-flattering reviews on this one but I think they've all been drinking some tainted Kool-Aid.  There isn't much chance we'll be hearing about it at Oscar time but come on, folks, there are worse films... plenty of them.  I had a number of laugh-out-louds and found it a better film on the comedy side than on the drama.

Admittedly there's nothing here you haven't seen before... 1995s Home for the Holidays and 2005s The Family Stone come immediately to mind.  But we know I like ensemble pieces and nothing quite like the dysfunctional family scenario to bring them all together. I think the general idea here is pleasing to mainstream audiences which is why we now have This Is Where I Leave You

There's gotta be some reason for a family to get together and dig at each other and a funeral is as good as anything.  The father has died and the mother (Fonda) has called for her four adult children (Fey, Bateman, Stoll and Driver) to come
home.  More to the point, it will be for a shiva, a seven-day period of formal Jewish mourning that, in this film, seems to come with sitting on straight-back chairs and getting into one another's business.

During the seven days, one can of worms after another spills out.  All the children have problems of one sort of another with their significant others.  Bateman has caught his wife in the sack with his boss, Stoll and his wife are unsuccessful at conceiving, Driver and his therapist have gone beyond the boundaries of a professional relationship and Fey's husband placed work before family.  Furthermore, both Fey and Bateman have yearnings (at widely different levels) for friends they meet up with again.  As the two of them sit on the roof of the family home (something they did as youngins), he ruminates that there's a lot of unhappiness, cheating and lying in their family.  Here, here.

I suppose one of the reasons I am a bit enthralled with the family gathering format is that I want to see how they handle it as compared to how my own family (and others I know) did.  While it's clearly something I can relate to, typically, the movie versions seemed to turn out so much better.

I did enjoy the comedy here... timely, appropriate, some delicious snotty comments and a wild episode at a hospital.  Despite being written by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the popular novel, some of the dramatic passages lacked clarity and just didn't work for me.

The actors perhaps deserved a little better but they are what worked the best here.  Shocking as it may be, this is the first time I have ever seen Tina Fey perform beyond hosting awards shows or clips of Sarah Palin impersonations.  I have never seen her on SNL or 30 Rock, nor have I seen any of her films.  The verdict here?  I enjoyed her but at least three other costars had better roles.

One of those was Jason Bateman.  Truthfully, I have seen just a small sampling of his work and he didn't rock me one way or the other.  But he impressed me here... a finely nuanced starring role as a man who sees life slapping him upside the head. 

Adam Driver.  Who's Adam Driver?  I have seen, reviewed and own three of his films, J. Edgar, Lincoln and Inside Llewyn Davis but he must not have registered.  I will have to check him out.  I read a Fonda interview a few weeks back and was taken with how taken she was with him, praising him up one side and down the other.  So I paid attention to him in this one... not exactly hard to do since he was the biggest breath of fresh air in the film as the youngest and least mature son.

I love Jane Fonda.  My experience with her is the opposite of mine with Fey.  I have seen every single movie Fonda has made, some multiple times.  Part B of her career (the films she has made after her 15-year hiatus from acting) are certainly not like the showcase pictures she made in Part A.  But at least she still acts.  Many actresses of her age have long since retired.  And it's doubtful Fonda needs the money.  She obviously acts because she loves it and it shows.  Part B seems to be all about comedy and she is a damned good comedic actress.

One thing that is definitely wrong with this film is its title.  I promise you that by the time you read this, I will have forgotten it.  Titles that are complete sentences are dumbass movie titles because few can remember them.  And if people can't remember them, they may not see the film.  Yeah, yeah, I know it was the title of the novel but novel titles (particularly dumbass ones) have been changed for the movies before.  Thank you.  I feel so much better.

Notable 60s Films


  1. When I first saw the cast on this one I said," I'm in." Then the reviews came in and I said, "Damn, I'm out." Then I read your review and I said, "Woo Hoo, I'm in."
    So fickle...

  2. Had to laugh about your title comment. When I got to the theater I didn't see it on the board and had to ask for the Jane Fonda movie!

    1. See David? Did I lie? LOL. Dumbass title.