“You are all my children again and you are all grounded”, Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda) announces to her adult children who have gathered at the family home after the passing of their father. It was his dying wish that the family sit Shiva, a week-long mourning period, and Hilary will see to it that this wish will be granted. This Is Where I Leave You is reviewed after the jump.
Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) has returned to his family home after the death of his father. He’s been having a tough time of late, with his marriage falling apart after he discovered his wife was cheating on him with his douchebag boss (Dax Sheppard). When his mother announces it was his father’s wish that the family sit Shiva, he knows that all the dirty laundry is going to come out, his family simply won’t be able to help themselves. Wendy (Tina Fey), Paul (Corey Stoll), Phillip (Adam Driver) and their respective spouses are in for an eventful week, one which is less about grief and more about examining what the heck they are all doing with their lives.
There’s a red flag right at the start of This Is Where I Leave You which pretty much signals what sort of film you’re in for. Judd comes home early from work on his wife’s birthday to surprise her and finds her in their bad with another man, Judd’s boss, who was a jerk to him in a scene shown moments earlier. If (like me) you groan at this point, you’re in a little trouble, for in This is Where I Leave You, there are two ridiculously cheesy, predictable and clichéd moments for every genuine one.
A scene involving the brothers getting stoned is one of the film’s few high points, while Rose Byrne’s character is a nice little twist on the girl who never left their hometown trope. I also enjoyed Adam Driver’s performance, he really does play jerk so well.
Considering how deep the talent in the cast runs, particularly in terms of comedy, it’s a real shame that this film isn’t better. Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne – these are all extremely funny people and their comedic talents are all but wasted in this film. Batemen’s character is an amalgamation of every disappointing, middle-life-crisis, down-and-out schmuck you’ve seen before. His character is exceedingly boring and it’s impossible to care about his moping ways. Even worse off in the character department is Jane Fonda, whose screen time is made-up of at least 40% boob job jokes. Even the best actors can’t save such limp material.
While I don’t think the direction from Levy was particularly strong, the fault here lies chiefly with the screenplay. I wonder if the novel is as clichéd as the film, or if writer Tropper simply lacked the skill to adapt his novel to the screen? This Is Where I Leave You is certainly watchable, it’s just not very good. You’ll see the developments coming from a mile away and if the aforementioned red flag causes you to groan at the beginning, you’ll most certainly feel the 103 minute run-time.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer(s): Jonathan Tropper (screenplay & novel)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll
Runtime: 103 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: October 23 2014; USA: September 19 2014