Including those that I saw at Sundance, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ marks the fourth new movie from the Duplass brothers that I’ve seen in the last 60 days. Out of the four, ‘Jeff’ is easily my favorite, and one of the very best films of 2012 so far.
Do you remember the ending to ‘Signs‘? Without spoiling the details, the moral of the story is that everything, good or bad, happens for a reason. The title character Jeff (Jason Segel) is a fully grown man who, obviously, still lives at home and obsesses over the moral of ‘Signs’. He’s aware that everyone thinks he’s a huge loser, but doesn’t mind. He believes that he’s simply misunderstood. Jeff is waiting for the day when everything will start to make sense, the day when he’ll discover his purpose and destiny. With the way things are going, today just might be that day.
Today is Jeff’s mom’s birthday. Since his dad died when Jeff was just a teenager, his mother Sarah (Susan Sarandon) has been single and lonely. The majority of her time is spent in a cubicle at work. With her weird son Jeff still living in her basement, and her other son Pat (Ed Helms) a selfish jerk, she’s become a worker drone with no excitement in her life. If Pat wasn’t so caught up in the money game, perhaps he and his unhappy wife Linda (Judy Greer) would have children, bringing happiness into Sarah’s life again. As of now, not a single person in this family is satisfied.
Jeff woke up this morning with ‘Signs’ on his mind, so after smoking a lot of weed, he’s looking for signs of his own that will lead him to his fate. First, he gets a wrong-number phone call from someone asking for Kevin. Then he gets on a bus to run an errand for his mom and sees the name Kevin printed on fellow rider’s jersey. So, he follows that kid and eventually runs into Pat. Each decision leads to another chance encounter with the other members of the family. While the others see these events as tragically awful – Worst Day Ever ingredients – Jeff can’t help but believe that these are all bad circumstances leading up to something amazing, something even better than the ending of ‘Signs’.
I cannot tell you the last time that I saw an indie comedy so heartfelt, well thought-out and funny as ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’. Like Jeff, I too would like to believe that everything happens for a reason. I always enjoy seeing that idea pop up in films and television, like ‘Super 8‘ and ‘Lost‘. What the Duplass Brothers have done to blend this idea into the real world, not one where aliens make crop circle and attacks small families in their basements. If everything truly did happen for a reason, what would it look like in our lives?
If you want a vacation from normal Hollywood fare, give ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ a shot this weekend. It’s worlds different from your standard cookie-cutter comedy.