21 June 2012

Jeff Who Lives at Home

I saw this on a recent flight and as I was watching, it occurred to me that there is a certain type of movie whose plot arc follows this pattern: you are introduced to a cast of characters who seem like fairly typical suburban types. But you start to realize rather quickly that in fact, they are all incredibly unhappy, and as the movie progresses, various things occur that serve not only to illuminate their misery, but also to increase it. Then, about halfway through the film, things start to improve, and by the end, they've all basically achieved fulfillment, or at least are well on their way to doing so. It's kind of a strange formula, when you think about it. And an interesting commentary on American society (because I think this is typically a narrative found in American independent films in particular).

Anyways, as you can guess, that's the basic formula for Jeff Lives at Home - sorry to give it away, but honestly, are you surprised? No. Because it really is that typical a plot line. Which is fine, but overall, the movie is not an especially interesting take on the formula - it feels a little too tidy. It's pleasant enough to watch, but everything fits together so well that you stop believing it. The danger appears early on, when we learn that Jeff is obsessed with patterns, signs, and the idea of destiny, and is out to seek his. Right away you figure that whatever whackadoodle adventure he undertakes will turn out to be freighted with significance, and sure enough. In fact, the movie doesn't even twist itself into particularly arduous contortions to get you there - it's almost blunt in its willingness to cut to the chase.

Jason Segal and Susan Sarandon both give enjoyable performances, as do the other leads, whose names I've forgotten. In some strange way, everyone in the movie seems to be giving a solid version of their standard role - even if you don't know who they are. I wonder what gives me that impression; if it's a feature of the director or what. There's just something very stolid about everyone in the movie, I dunno.

Overall, meh. It's definitely enjoyable for a rental or an in-flight feature, but I wouldn't rush to the cineplex.

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