For the Duplass Brothers’ new feature, Jeff Who Lives at Home, they’ve recruited some of the most prominent names possible in quirky, real-life comedy, Ed Helms and Jason Segel. True to form, the Duplass brothers create a portrait of human beings doing what they do best: meander, often flailing, through the confusion of everyday life. In the end, the brother duo offer us in their characters what many of us seek, and only some find, redemption and fulfillment.
The unlikely hero, Jeff, who as you guessed, lives at home with his mother, is an eccentric loner, convinced that the world is completely unified and all one has to do is heed the signs around them to find their destiny. While this kind of heart-on-sleeve writing is both touching and humorous, the film is also bold enough, in this cynical age, to treat Jeff’s perspective with respect. That is to say, we are aware that we should both laugh at Jeff and agree with him. In this way, if sentimentality, faith, and hope make you squirm, this film may be difficult to stomach. If we might editorialize briefly, viewers who are in that camp elicit pity from us for the outstanding piece of cinema their hard hearts will force them to overlook.
The film’s characters astoundingly reflect the deepest recesses of our own personalities, and the brother Jeff (Segel) and Pat (Helms) are the polar extremes of those facets. Jeff wanders through life in a daze, unsure of his next step, and instead of making one, simply opting out. Pat, on the other hand, undertakes each decision, each comment, each action with total confidence, unrelentingly convinced of his own righteousness. Their mother, Carol (Susan Sarandon), finds herself stuck in the middle, still playing mother to Jeff, and so forced to maintain her adult career, while obviously in desperate need of a mental vacation of her own.
Jeff Who Lives at Home’s humor is fresh, and its actors perform at the top of their game considered both individually and in their dynamic with one another. The comedy defers some of the more frantic antics of films such as I Love You, Man, instead opting for a more subtle and realistic portray of human communication. This approach, combine with the film’s low demands for set results in something like a well-written and carefully scripted version of mublecore. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Undoubtedly, our most cynical critics will write off this heartwarming gem, but for anyone with a glimmer of hope in humanity in their heart, the film will resonate. Don’t miss it.