April 25, 2013

Jeff, Who Lives At Home

Jay & Mark Duplass, 2011

          Jeff (Jason Segel) is running an errand for his mother, who he still lives with (surprise) when he gets caught up in a chaotic whirlwind of too-real marital drama involving his brother Pat (Ed Helms) and his wife Linda (Judy Greer).
          This comedy is directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (The League). In the beginning of the film, they do one of those introductory scenes where you see photo-shopped photos of all of the actors in the film at various points in their lives. I wonder if there is a GO TO graphic designer in Hollywood who excels at making these. While the film at times feels like paint-by-numbers comedy, there is a noticeable sense of smart writing and impressive acting. Segel and Helms fit into their roles really well as brothers, and the real moments between them feel authentic. Segel is particularly impressive in his role as the introspective loner who is on his own path to enlightenment. His eyes are open, and he's looking for answers. Susan Sarandon really displays her natural acting chops - there's a hypnotic effect to her acting that I have really come to respect. That being said, although she provided some veteran acting to the film, I wondered while watching: was her character even necessary? Shouldn't the film just be focused solely on the dynamic of the two brothers? The film effectively examines an interesting concept of a brother who hasn't left the nest, and is living life on his own terms and own pace is ironically the one who is together mentally. The brother who is out of the house and married may live up to society's standard but is actually impulsive and not in touch with his own emotions.
          While the writing and acting are the most impressive elements of the film, the cinematography is not. Jas Shelton's camera work is guilty of having too much shaky-cam and erratic close ups. I think the scenes would have been better served by medium shots where you can see the two parties conversing. In a film where there doesn't seem to be an emphasis on style, there should have been room to let the actors breathe in the shot.
          I wonder how much of the relationship between Jeff and Pat is loosely autobiographical of the two Duplass brothers. With the over-saturation of horrible comedies out there nowadays, there are refreshing features to this film and I am curious to see what the Duplass brothers do in the future.

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