This year’s Toronto International Film Festival closed shop on Sunday, and it’s about time for me to wrap up my coverage of it as well. Let’s end things with a comedy. For my final review, we’ll take a look at ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’, the new film from Jay and Mark Duplass, directors of ‘The Puffy Chair’ and last year’s indie hit ‘Cyrus‘.
Jason Segel stars in the title role as a hapless yet amiable slacker (not much of a stretch for the actor, I know) who still lives with his mother (Susan Sarandon) and spends most of his days smoking pot. Jeff has no job and no direction in life, but believes that the universe is sending him signs about his destiny. The movie takes place over the course of one day, during which Jeff goes on an odyssey through town triggered by a wrong-number call to his house asking for “Kevin.” Even though Jeff doesn’t know anyone named Kevin, he’s certain that this mystery figure will play an important role in his fate.
Ed Helms plays Pat, Jeff’s self-centered brother who is currently in the midst of ruining his marriage to his long-suffering wife Linda (Judy Greer). Helms nicely plays against type in the role as… well, the character is basically a dick. In response to his wife pestering him to save for a new house, he goes out and buys a Porsche, which he has somehow convinced himself will be the key to marital bliss. Linda is less than impressed. When he suspects her of cheating on him, rather than acknowledge his own culpability in their emotional detachment, Pat turns alpha male and makes a huge ass of himself in public.
As Jeff attempts to help his brother through his problems (for which Pat is far from grateful), he continually finds himself distracted by signs that he thinks the universe is sending his way. The movie has a clever premise and an appealing cast. Greer (who often specializes in playing bitter shrews) is especially sympathetic as the put-upon wife. Her emotional breakdown in the middle of the movie provides some real heart and catharsis.
With that said, the film is a little too schematic, and the way that the various storylines eventually converge feels both terribly contrived and derivative of many other “interconnected lives” movies from recent years. In the end, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ is a pleasant little comedy, but it just doesn’t have enough substance behind it to back up what turn out to be fairly mild laughs.