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Jeff Who Lives At Home

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Released 11 May 2012
Director Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer
Writer(s) Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Lianne Halfon, Jason Reitman, Russell Smith
Origin United States
Running Time 83 minutes
Genre Comedy
Rating TBC

Jeff, Should Move Out.

Fraternal directors Jay and Mark Duplass have taken their particular brand of quirky charm and stamped it all over their latest offering Jeff, Who Lives at Home. The title alone is a bit of a headscratcher but that’s pretty typical of the sires of 2005's The Puffy Chair. Genial and sometimes genius the Duplass' films are usually slow burners and oftentimes it's worth sticking with them until they end. Sometimes however, it's not....

Jeff (Jason Segal) is a thirty year-old potsmoking aimless layabout who lives in the wood panelled environs of his mother's basement. He is a firm believer in destiny and when he gets a phone call asking for someone named Kevin, he believes that this is a sign from the universe- a sign in the M. Night Shyamalan sense you understand. Sent on an errand by his exasperated mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) Jeff soon abandons his search for shutter wood-glue to seek out 'Kevin' and by extension the meaning of his life. Pat (Ed Helms) his goatee'd selfish older brother is also on a mission-to uncover his wife's alleged infidelity. The two brothers cross paths in unexpected events and after several bizarre and poignant sequences they soon realise that they just might have something to learn from each other.

The absurdist tone of the entire film is watered down by the almost documentary style of the Duplass' filmmaking. The camera zooms in and out so that we can see every nerve tick on Sharon's face as she screeches at her man child of a son. The prefabricated cubicles of the office where Sharon works, the plastic plants and the musty water cooler are all typically the Duplass way of injecting a sense of realism into proceedings-this is a mundane everyday job in a city where men live at home and convince themselves that the universe has a plan for them. Segal has picked a role that is not exactly a stretch for his acting abilities-he plays his usual mix of vulnerability and wide-eyed wonder while Helms is impressive as the asshole husband, son and brother. However it is Sarandon who manages to give heart to this indie flick-without her there would be no ballast and the story would drift high above our heads. Her disappointment in her family, her loneliness, her yearning for companionship and her complete lack of confidence is both endearing and heartrending. She has the ability of the silent movie stars of yore to display emotion on her face like a pamphlet-the untethered hope in her large eyes as she scans the text of an instant message from an admiring co-worker is as effective as a monologue. There regretfully however is not enough Sarandon to save Jeff, Who Lives at Home from being anything more than a goofy, sweet but ultimately slight film.

- Louisa McElwee