This is Where I Leave You
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Jonathan Tropper
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Timothy Olyphant, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton and Dax Shepard
Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is not having a good day. He finds his wife in bed with his boss, and in short order receives a phone call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) informing him that their father has passed away. The grown children of the Altman patriarch return to their childhood home and their mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda). She informs the group that their father’s dying wish was for his clan to observe the Jewish tradition of Shiva, which is a weeklong mourning session. And so the four siblings are forced to spend a week under one roof with their mother.
In addition to Wendy and Judd, there’s Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn) who are riding the rollercoaster of infertility treatments in the hopes of having a baby. Then there’s free-spirited Phillip (Adam Driver) who arrives with his older girlfriend Tracy (Connie Britton).
It’s clear the siblings aren’t exactly close, making the task at hand almost unbearable for the family. Add to that the fact that Hillary overshared about her children in a memoir she wrote, and there’s palpable tension in the air. Over the course of the week, old wounds are reopened and new relationships are forged. This is Where I Leave You is a fairly by the numbers story. There’s nothing particular fresh or new here, but the very talented cast saves the film from complete mediocrity.
The movie is best served during its more poignant moments; Annie breaking down over her inability to conceive, Judd connecting with a girl who chose to never leave their town and Wendy’s painful realization that her marriage is on the rocks. Fey’s character is the most fleshed out. She still harbors feelings for neighbor Horry (Timothy Olyphant), who suffered a brain injury when the two were in a car accident. Their brief encounters are bittersweet and tinged with melancholy. If the story stuck to these interactions, it could have been a pretty great movie.
Alas, director Shawn Levy trots out the requisite poop and boob jokes, particularly at the expense of Jane Fonda’s character, who has recently undergone a massive breast augmentation prior to embarking on a book signing tour. Levy elicits some laughs the first one or two times, but the joke gets old really fast. Wendy’s toddler provides the poop fodder, hauling his portable potty and plunking it down to do his business wherever he sees fit.
Bateman and Fey fill the roles of the grounded, rational siblings. Bateman is reliable, as usual, Fey adds a bit of levity to the story and Britton’s brief scene when she realizes her boy toy will never change is moving. The rest of the cast dutifully deliver their lines the best they can with the material. The tacked on ending comes out of left field and is wholly unsatisfying, if not insulting to the audience.
Levy has not managed to make a great film, but it is entertaining enough for me to give it a light recommendation, especially if you like the cast members. It’s not a bad film by any means, it just doesn’t live up to its potential. It could have been so much better. – Shannon