It’s impossible to find faults in the casting for Paramount’s new film “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” (R). Led by the often irascible Jason Segel, the hilarious Ed Helms, and the versatile Susan Sarandon, the collection of characters in the movie are enticing enough for us to drop the $12 and head out to the theater. Unfortunately with a feeble premise and an uninspired, implausible story, aside from a few bits of laughter, “Jeff” is simply a waste of the cast’s talents and about 83 minutes of your time.
Written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, makers of the much more enjoyable and widely underrated dark comedy “Cyrus” (2010), the story opens with Jeff (Segel) at his home in Louisiana, an unemployed, disenchanted resident of his mother’s basement. An unabashed fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film “Signs,” Jeff chooses to be led solely by the forces of the universe; his every decision is influenced by the little nuances in everyday life, regardless of how trivial. In fact, the sole basis of the entire film revolves around a wrong number phone call he receives- the bully on the other end threatens someone named Kevin and the next 80 minutes are spent watching Jeff trying to connect the dots around the call led by signs that will lead him to this ‘Kevin.’ At odds with his selfish brother Pat (Helms)- his complete opposite- the pair run into each other only to stumble onto the fact that Pat’s wife (Judy Greer) may be cheating on him. And as such with Pat’s attempts to utilize clues to confirm the affair and subsequently repair his failing marriage and with Jeff being influenced by the way the wind blows, the two eventually discover that despite their differences, their bond of brotherhood is stronger than they had previously thought.
Sarandon meanwhile is at a standstill in her life- disillusioned by her polar opposite sons, aging by the day, and single since her husband’s demise. A workplace secret admirer reinvigorates feelings that she hasn’t known for years, although when she discovers that the admiration is coming from an unlikely source, she re-evaluates her initial refusal of feelings and decides to give a new relationship a chance. The film’s climax occurs at the very end of the film, as all involved parties are stuck in traffic resulting from a horrific car accident- with Pat reuniting with his wife and vowing to work on his issues, Sharon (Sarandon) feeling reborn in the wake of these new feelings, and Jeff, placed by the universe in the right place at the right time to heroically save a family involved in the accident.
As the film concludes, you realize that there may be something to the fact that we are guided by fate from the circumstances which surround us- until you wake up incredulously and consider that this is a ridiculously far-fetched film, with the tired premise of a lovable loser managing to reinvent himself and once again become the prototypical hero. Unfortunately, “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is a film that tries to be too artsy, too independent, and is neither overly emotional, nor overly funny. It’s a movie that leaves you waiting and waiting for something, anything to happen so that you can invest yourself in the talented, adored cast, and each time a critical event occurs it just reeks of a surrendering sort of reach. “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is another in a long line of films that looked decent enough in the trailer and based on the history of the actors involved, was another film that we wanted to like. Sadly, the premise is flat, the story is not relatable, and the movie simply fails to capitalize on the very things we’ve come to like about these actors on film, which leaves us with 80 minutes of disappointment and wondering what this film could have been.
“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is rated R, starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, and Susan Sarandon, has a runtime of 83 minutes, and is released in theaters everywhere Friday, March 16th.
- Jane Van Arsdale