Way late review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone like Jeff (Jason Segel). A thirty years old, smoking pot, living in his mom’s basement, waiting for his destiny to come to him and magically control his life. I also didn’t expect to like Jeff, Who Lives at Home as much as I did.

Jeff finds great significance in the movie Signs. The M. Night Shyamalan film has deep meaning for the man who seems to have little purpose in life other than to mooch off mom and get high. He’s fascinated that the little girl in the film has a hard time drinking water and leaves full glasses all over the house. He marvels at how those very same glasses of water play a major role in saving the girl and her family’s lives. Jeff desperately wants to find his glasses of water in life.

Pat (Ed Helms), Jeff’s older brother, is not living at home. He’s married and in place of passively seeking his destiny he tries to make it happen in the form of purchasing a brand new Porsche Boxster against the consent of his wife, Linda (Judy Greer). While Linda has been saving for a home, Pat has been dreaming of living a life he can’t afford.

Jeff and Pat’s mom (Susan Sarandon) is a widow. She makes it clear to Jeff that she’d like for him to take even the simplest steps in becoming a productive member of society. For her birthday she sternly asks Jeff to get wood glue to fix a shudder in the house. She realizes this is not asking a lot, yet it is. She knows her son.

If there are any missteps it’s likely with the mom’s story line. She plays an important role, as she struggles with being alone, being a widow. The sadness and bitterness towards her own life carries over in her sons’ lives. All of them miss the same man who they all clearly loved very much. However, mom’s actions towards the end seemed forced to move the plot forward, as we never get to know her well enough to believe the path she chooses.

The passive pursuit of discovering his destiny leads Jeff off his mission to purchase wood glue and on a journey that leads to no shortage of comedic situations. Along the way, Jeff and Pat cross paths, where we discover the brothers do not like one another. No matter, Pat has more pressing concerns when his attempt to show off the power of the Porsche to Jeff backfires and, in a strange way, leads the brothers to find Pat’s wife potentially cheating on him. The pursuit for the truth has the brothers in a smashed up Boxster swerving through traffic trying to tail Linda and her mysterious male companion. Jeff plays the part of the Flinstone’s Dino, as he pops his head out of the sunroof so he can act as the human Google Maps. The comedic chase and awkward, yet funny, detective work by Jeff and Pat goes on until it meets a rather predictable conclusion. Yet that’s not the end. The small comedy turns into something more.

I was at first convinced Jeff, Who Lives at Home was going to be another vulgar and cynical comedy; one that treats its characters with disdain by putting them through painfully awkward situations, only to watch them dangle in despair until the bitter end where there is a weak attempt at redemption. And while it is vulgar at times, there is a genuine care for these characters, all of whom are easy to make rash judgments about. The story is more than just a setup for laughs, though there are plenty of those. Jeff’s obsession with his destiny may not jive with reality but it makes for a surprisingly compelling story with an emotional payoff.

 ★★★★½ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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