Jeff, Who Lives at Home Searches for Meaning
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 16 Mar
DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: March 16, 2012
Rating: R (for language including sexual references and some drug use)
Run Time: 83 min.
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Actors: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross, Benjamin Brant Bickham, Tim J. Smith
Whether it was the good-hearted doofus played by Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother, the forty-somethings who can’t wait to take a week off from marriage so they can re-live their adolescent fantasies in Hall Pass or pretty much any role Adam Sandler signs up for, modern cinema is chock full of men in various states of arrested development.
Now with Jeff, Who Lives at Home, we’re introduced to yet another man with a perpetual case of Peter Pan syndrome. Now 30 years old and still living in his mother’s basement, Jeff (Jason Segel, The Muppets) spends the bulk of his day smoking weed and looking for hidden truths in what’s apparently his favorite movie, Signs.
A strong believer that nothing in life is ever coincidental, he’s in constant pursuit of his life’s greater meaning. Unfortunately, since Jeff rarely leaves the cozy confines of home or the hazy state that comes with smoking copious amounts of a mind-altering substance, his search for grand cosmic significance is a bit misguided to say the least.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), who spends the bulk of her lonely existence in a cubical, just wishes he’d do something, anything, but lounge around. Frustrated by his sheer lack of motivation, she gives him an ultimatum—either go to Home Depot and pick up some glue to fix the broken piece of wood on the kitchen cabinet or find a new place to live.
While Jeff doesn’t seem particularly phased by the urgency of her demand, what he is excited about is finding how the name “Kevin” plays into his personal narrative. See, before his Mom got in touch, a random guy named Kevin called, so naturally, Jeff thinks “Kevin” is a super-important sign of some sort.
Giving further credence to his wackadoodle theory, there’s actually a guy on the bus with “Kevin” sewn on the back of his sports jersey. For most people, a random occurrence like this would be nothing more than an amusing little fluke, but Jeff just “knows” he has to follow this guy wherever he’s going. And while this turn of events eventually leads to Jeff getting beaten up and robbed when a seemingly innocent invitation from Kevin to smoke pot turns ugly, Jeff eventually ends up bumping into his brother, Pat (Ed Helms, TV’s The Office).
Pat isn’t exactly having the best day himself because his wife, Linda (Judy Greer, The Descendants), wasn’t particularly thrilled with his recent purchase—a Porsche they can’t afford. A little lacking in the responsibility department himself, Pat’s marriage is on the rocks, not that he’s all that worried about it. Instead of moving toward a more settled state of affairs that involves home ownership and children, something they’d apparently been talking about for a while now, Pat buys the Porsche despite Linda’s severe reservations.
Employing the whole “do it and ask forgiveness later” strategy by breaking the news to her over a “romantic” breakfast of toaster waffles and bacon, Linda naturally sees right through the “gesture” and walks out, but not before squeezing ketchup and hurling garbage on his new car.
After taking the Porsche for a joyride that ends with the airbags deploying (don’t ask) later on, Jeff and Pat happen to spot Linda with a guy who’s not, well, Pat, on what looks like a lunch date. And it’s this solitary event that finally kick-starts this threadbare comedy into a seriously madcap gear. With one strange and ill-advised turn of events leading to another, Jeff and Pat are practically forced into some brotherly bonding that reveals something not all that surprising about Jeff, namely that he’s got a better handle on what’s important in life than everyone thinks.
When you’ve got a character this criminally naïve with a perspective on destiny that belies anything resembling rational thought, the right casting makes all the difference. And as this lovable loser, Segel is a perfect match. No matter how crazy things get, you can’t help rooting for the oversized man-boy.
While hardly a perfect film and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea given the questionable content (see Cautions below), there are threads of forgiveness and redemption that elevate it from the usual mumblecore fare. But for anyone expecting more obvious laughs or takeaway that’s deeper than mere fortune cookie wisdom, Jeff, Who Lives At Home will probably seem like just another story featuring another slacker protagonist.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking. A discussion on whether someone was drinking and driving. Jeff is shown using drugs in a couple of scenes.
- Language/Profanity: Expletives, particularly the “f” word, are used throughout, plus there are a few instances where God’s name is taken in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: A couple of crude references to male anatomy. Pat suspects his wife Linda is having an affair. Linda and Steve check into a local hotel but don’t end up sleeping together. Sharon discovers that her secret admirer at work is actually her friend Carol (Rae Dawn Chong). Both Sharon and Carol say they’ve only been attracted to men in the past but believe that love, no matter where it’s found, is incredibly rewarding. After talking about how great it would be to kiss under a waterfall, Carol sets off the sprinklers at work so she can do just that with Sharon. The kiss is brief, and later on, you sense they’ve started a relationship since Carol is at future family gatherings.
- Violence: Jeff is beat up and robbed in one scene. Pat crashes his new Porsche pretty dramatically into a tree (neither he nor Jeff sustain any major injuries, though). A father, along with his two young daughters, are trapped in a car that’s sinking to the bottom of the river. Their rescuer almost dies in the attempt to save them.
Worldview: While we’re not exactly sure what fuels Jeff’s belief system, aside from the movie Signs that he references on several occasions, Jeff is positive that nothing in life is a coincidence. He believes in destiny, even if he struggles to make sense of his own place in the world.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog. For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.