As you are reading this movie review, do you know which decisions you’ve made in your life that have brought you to this place? Are you aware of the signs that directed you down this path to arrive at this particular location, at this point in time? When you came to crossroads in your life, what led you to choose one path over the other, or were you even conscious of the fact that you were at an important intersection? Have you ever thought about how a seemingly insignificant occurrence or decision could potentially alter your life, or someone else’s life, forever? These are the questions posed in the new thought-provoking and hilarious film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a movie that looks at the “butterfly effect” of everyday life.
The low-key advertising campaign for Jeff, Who Lives at Home would have you believe that it is a goofball comedy about a “stoner” who lives in his Mom’s basement and his wacky misadventures with his estranged brother, and if you had to sum this film up to pitch it to its widest audience, I guess that tactic is understandable. But this movie is so much more than just a very funny film and it addresses subjects like destiny, loneliness, loyalty and the meaning of success in a way that is delightfully smart and entertaining without being preachy or beating you over the head with its message.
Jeff (Jason Segel from The Muppets) is 30 years old and spends most of his days sitting in his mother’s basement getting high, watching TV and musing on the philosophical significance of such heady film fare as M. Night Shyamalan’s alien invasion flick, Signs. A phone call from a seemingly wrong number and a forced outing to pick up wood glue for his Mom (Susan Sarandon from Dead Man Walking) sends him on a slacker-style odyssey of self-discovery and destiny.
Jeff takes place as just one day-in-the-life of the main character, but also revolves around side stories concerning his self-centered brother (Ed Helms from The Hangover) who is breaking up with his wife, and his mother who is celebrating a birthday and feeling aged and astray until her friend (Rae Dawn Chong from Quest for Fire) relights her fire in an unexpected way. Speaking of destiny and coincidence, who would have ever guessed that Rae Dawn Chong, daughter of dope-smoking icon Tommy Chong, would one day star in an insightful film about a character who is a huge stoner?
This movie is written and directed by the brothers Jay & Mark Duplass (Cyrus) and this film is very similar in tone to Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt and Sideways in that it touches on serious issues in a very humorous and approachable way with characters and situations that are completely believable. I love the writing in this movie, especially the way that Jeff defends himself and his actions (or lack thereof) with geeky movie references that none of the other characters seem to get. By virtue of the fact that your personal life journey has brought you to this review, I’m betting you’ll completely understand this character.
Another thing I loved about this story is that while it tacitly leads you into thinking about the way that happenstance and choice shapes our lives, it also shows the how misinterpreting a coincidence for an omen can lead to terrible and sometimes life-altering situations. Sometimes following your gut instead of your head can get you killed (and vice-versa) and the decisions we make in those circumstances are the ones that shapes our lives. Jeff, Who Lives at Home conveys this a way that is entertaining, fun and serious all at the same time.
If you’ve ever felt lost in life and like you are just meandering through it, looking for a purpose (and who hasn’t), then Jeff, Who Lives at Home is for you. This is one of the best and most heart-warming films so far this year, so make the right decision and don’t let the misguided marketing for this movie lead you away from seeing it.