Sunday, September 21, 2014

"This Is Where I Leave You" Review

This Is Where I Leave You is a serviceable R-rated comedy about a dysfunctional Jewish family sitting Shiva after the death of their patriarch. For one week, four grown siblings are forced to live at home with their loudmouth mother, where each of them grapples with their broken relationships between each other, their respective spouses, exes, and "Great White Buffaloes."

It boasts an all-star cast, among them Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda. As director Shawn Levy's first R-rated flick, there's plenty to enjoy, but in the end you might be pining to leave the theater for your Netflix queue, where you can catch up on Bateman's funnier and admittedly edgier comedy series Arrested Development, also about a dysfunctional family. Go figure.

Aside from the cast of A-list players (Bateman, Fey, Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Dax Shepard, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, and House of Cards' Corey Stoll), what I admire most about the film is how writer Jonathan Tropper (adapting his own best-selling book) lends each character his or her own problems and allows ample room for each of them to flesh these issues out without the film feeling unfocused. It's nice that everyone gets a little time to shine.

The cast has a natural chemistry that makes their circumstances believable. Don't be surprised if you find yourself researching afterwards to see if Bateman and Fey aren't actually brother and sister; or at least distantly related in some way.

Aside from an uncomfortable scene involving Hahn, Bateman, and the possibility of infidelity for the sake of conception, I felt at times like this could've been my own family.

Some viewers might feel that TIWILY comes off as a simple-minded "white people problems" movie, or that as a whole, the film isn't as funny as it should've been with a cast like this. Both estimations wouldn't be entirely false. There's a late family revelation that fans of the book may be anticipating, but the film makes it feel like a slapdash twist - one last-ditch effort to hammer home the idea that this contrived family comedy is relevant to today's media landscape. I didn't appreciate it.

The cast alone is worth the price of admission, and there's enough to enjoy in this story to make it a solid date-night choice. That is if staying in, cuddling, and watching Arrested Development on Netflix aren't options.