Saturday, September 20, 2014
This is Where I Leave You
I have no objections to this movie, it is frequently amusing, there are some interesting characters and the performers all do what is asked of them. I just can't say I liked it as well as I'd hoped I would. With a cast of professionals tossing around cleverly written lines, I should have been more entranced. What I was doing instaed of enjoying the film, was counting all the complications that came up in this single short period in this families life. I know life is complicated, but this was overstuffed.
Every character in the story brings baggage with them to the Shiva sitting that the family goes through at the passing of their patriarch. The widow is a well known therapist who wrote a book about raising kids, using her own children's experience as the basis of most of it. The family has to adjust to the boob job that she has recently had as well. The oldest son and his wife are having difficulty conceiving and the family business, which he runs has been left to he and his siblings so there is that. The daughter has two children, one of whom is potty training anywhere it suits him, and her husband is disconnected from the family and wrapped up in his own business dealings. She also still has feelings for the man she left, who lives across the street and had an accident that left him brain damaged. The youngest son is a screw up who is nearly engaged to his former therapist who is many years older than he is. The other son is going through a divorce after discovering the radio show host that he produces for is sleeping with his wife. That's more than a dozen complications for the story to deal with, but it does not stop there.
Every few minutes another curve-ball is served up for us to digest. Additional characters and complications appear every five minutes and it feels like there was no confidence in the stories that we have, so some more get tossed in. Oh, and the Mom is not Jewish and their dead Father, who was a Jew was an atheist, so all of the trapping of the Shiva are an artificial way to force the family together. Old jealousies and slights get magnified, bonding though drugs and alcohol ensues, and in the end the whole enterprise feels a bit manipulative.
Jane Fonda started working again ten years ago, after a fifteen year layoff from movies but i have not seen any of that work. The last movie I saw her in was "The Morning After", in 1986. She looks great and sounds exactly like I remember her, which means that there was not much to her being in this film except that she meets the age requirement and she loos fine. Jason Bateman is always reliably shlepishly amusing, and he can act a dramatic scene pretty well. There are just too many places where long looks of silence are supposed to fill in the gaps with drama between the quips. "Death at a Funeral", (The British Version) kept the focus on comedy with only occassional moments meant to touch our hearts. This movie seemed to have it down to a science; "joke", "quip", "touching glance" and then repeat.
Tina Fey is underused and then when she is used, it is too often for heart instead of laughs. Timothy Oliphant is a good actor but he is a image from the past that simply represents regret and there is really nothing happening with that storyline. I think Adam Driver will be the next Seth Rogan, the Stoner actor for the new generation. This is the second movie I've seen him in and he is basically repeating that performance. This film feels so familiar even though some of the scenerios are new, that's because it does nothing different with the setting and instead just ambles about. I was an OK amble, just not something you have to see.