Film Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is an independent drama-comedy film directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass following a family and their struggles in life. The titular character Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30-year-old dreamer who lives with his mother and is obsessed with his belief in cosmic signs projected from the universe to show him his destiny; his brother Pat (Ed Helms) is a working man struggling with a failing marriage and their mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon) who is trying to give Jeff some ambition in life whilst also enjoying the fact that, despite her middle age, she seems to be receiving mysterious flirtatious notes from a secret admirer.
Segel provided a pleasantly surprising performance as Jeff, the kind but lazy, unemployed, pothead dreamer who meticulously searches for signs left by the cosmos that may outline his fate, believing that there are no coincidences in life – being particularly persistent in chasing anyone or anything with the name ‘Kevin’ after receiving a strange phone call at the start of the film. His character is reminiscent somewhat of Napoleon Dynamite (particularly when juxtaposed with his wannabe businessman brother who is somewhat like Napoleon Dynamite’s Kip), but is more naïve and bohemian. Helms provides a convincing brother, as his character Pat has been neglectful and selfish in his marriage and fails to see that his wife Linda (Judy Greer) is desperately unhappy.
With these two comedic actors involved, Segel known for How I Met Your Mother and The Muppets and Helms known for The Hangover series, one would expect a louder, more energetic comedy film. However the laughs in this film are very gentle, as this film takes a slower pace. Sometimes – particularly in the first act – this pace is a little too slow, and subsequently becomes boring. However Jeff’s whimsy and the intriguing – yet unlikely – subplot in which Sharon receives secret online messages and drawings on paper aeroplanes from a co-worker who secretly admires her bring back the interest. Sarandon gave a great performance as the delicate woman who is given a chance to love again in her middle age, played with beautiful fragility as she tries to work out who it is and whether or not it is a cruel trick.
The cinematography was at times odd – for example, there were various documentary-like shots in which the camera would quickly zoom in a little further on some action or on a character’s face, and many shots were also handheld. Supposedly this tries to add some realistic, down-to-earth feel to the film but it is a little jarring for the viewer.
The revelation in the final act of the film feels perhaps a little too underwhelming, but – just as Jeff describes with regards to the movie Signs – rounds off nicely in a perfect little moment, mirroring his view on the universe. It’s a perfectly sweet and gentle film, yet very easily forgettable and – on occasion – bordering on dull.