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The is Where I Leave You

What She said:

She

So, perhaps I should have thought this movie selection out a little more. I mean, it’s not exactly ideal to watch a dramedy about a family getting together for a funeral around the holidays. A bit of a downer. But oh well, the cast of this movie is such that it should have been ensured that this movie would be a hit. I mean, Tina Fey and Jason Bateman wouldn’t allow a film that they’re in to NOT be poignant and funny, right? Oh, I wish that assumption would have been correct.

Let me give you the basics here. The story circulates around the Altman family—mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) and children Judd (Bateman), Wendy (Fey), Paul (Corey Stoll), and Phillip (Adam Driver). The Altmans are forced to come together with their significant others in tow to sit shiva, after the family patriarch passes away from cancer. The Atlmans are not practicing Jews; however, Hillary says that it was her husband’s dying wish that the children should come together for seven days to welcome guests and rekindle their relationship with one another. Begrudgingly, the kids abide, but it’s clear that they are far from the perfect functional family.

This is Where I Leave You

Judd has been going through his own drama, after catching his wife cheating on him with his boss. He’s now dealing with a divorce and is out of a job, and he doesn’t want his mother to know about it. Wendy is raising two young children, and with little help from her husband Barry, who seems more wrapped up in his work than in any sort of relationship with his family. Meanwhile, Paul and his wife Annie have been trying desperately to have a baby for three years. They’re in the midst of fertility treatments, which have put a substantial strain on their marriage. And finally, Phillip is kind of the family screw-up. He’s a rude and inconsiderate womanizer who drifts from job to job and relationship to relationship.

Being together under one roof just magnifies each person’s problems, but there are actually some positives that come from it. Judd is able to pursue a new romance with Penny, a woman from his past who has long had a thing for him. This new relationship may help him to move past the hurt that he continues to struggle with from the dissolution of his marriage. Of course, things are not as easy as he would like, as Judd also finds out that his ex-wife is pregnant with his unborn child. So complex. For better or worse, Wendy is reunited with the love of her life, neighbor Horry Callen (Timothy Olyphant). They were apparently hot and heavy for many years, but that all ended when Horry suffered a brain injury that left him not entirely functional and forced to live at home with his mother. Paul and Phillip don’t grow a ton, although Paul does loosen up to Phillip and agrees to let him into the family business, which Paul had maintained with his father.

The film concludes with mother Hillary dropping a bit of a bomb on everyone. I’ll leave it at that.

This is Where I Leave You

This movie had a lot of potential. It has a huge cast known for their talent. However, the writing leaves too many gaps in the general storyline to be functional, and there simply are not enough laughs to compensate otherwise. Moments that I believe were supposed to be endearing and emotional felt shallow because I did not know enough about the characters or their backstories to make me want to care. And that’s really want cuts this entire movie down. It’s so underdeveloped. A lot of things happen on screen and there are many moments of contemplation, but they’re in no way effecting. We are given only the bare bones in the way of backstory on this family and the film’s peripheral characters. For example, it’s clear that there is something powerful between Wendy and Horry, but it’s not really explained until later in the film and even at that point it’s mostly glossed over. All we really come to understand is that Wendy is very upset and will never be happy with anyone else.

The content of this film simply does not match the caliber of the actors on screen. And you can tell that they’re really trying hard to work with what they were given. If only they had been given more. I think the movie-makers tried to compensate for the plot gaps in this film by just throwing more awkward scenarios and family drama up on screen. As The He pointed out, there’s no way one family could have this many problems all at the same time. Why not just fixate on one or two problems, develop them further, and then show the emotional toll that they have on everyone? That would have been a better formula.

Anyway, what we see here is lovely to look at and such, but is void of the substance it needs to stay afloat. It’s a pity, as I felt it was a squandered opportunity.

Thumbs mostly down.

This is Where I Leave You

What He said:

He

The premise of this movie is very simple. Mort Altman, the patriarch of his clan, has recently passed away. His children all return to their hometown to attend his funeral, where his wife informs them that his dying wish was for the family to partake in the Jewish tradition of Shiva. For those of you who don’t want to click on the link, it just means that the family stays under the same roof and welcomes mourners for an allotted period of time. His wife Hillary (Jane Fonda) informs her children that it was her husband’s dying wish. The family is not particularly close and has not spent much time together recently. They are forced to all stay with their mom in their childhood home. Drama and hilarity (in theory) ensues.

This is Where I Leave You

Each of the children are going through their own issues. Wendy is played by Tina Fey. She’s a wife and mother. She’s stressed out, but loves her kids. Her husband is another story. They are one of those couples that you wonder why they are even together. She also still has a thing for a teenage love played by Timothy Olyphant. Jason Batmen is Judd. He’s the middle child and the main character. He’s been having a real bad run lately. Right before he found out about his father, he caught his wife (Abigal Spencer) cheating on him with his boss (Dax Shepard). Adam Driver plays Phillip, who is the youngest. Phillip is very self-absorbed and cliché. For example, he’s dating his shrink, a much older woman, and thinks he’s sophisticated for doing so, then predictably cheats on her with an old flame when he returns to his hometown. Paul (Corey Stoll) is the oldest and probably most neglected of the siblings. He’s the oldest, but gets no respect at the same time, which bothers him. He is also trying to have a baby with his wife (Kathryn Hahn), but that isn’t going so well.

This is Where I Leave You

The movie consists mostly of these subplots, as well as some attempts at humor. I say attempts, because for the most part this movie was not very funny at all. There were a few times I smirked, maybe even chuckled. That’s a little surprising, because this movie has some more well-known names in the comedy world. Tina Fey and Jason Bateman are obvious (though he’s done a ton for me).  He’s ok. I don’t hate him, but I know he’s fairly popular and has never made me laugh more than a little. Tina Fey’s performance was awful, which surprised me. Even in a bad movie, she’s usually funny. Her performance was like she was trying too hard. The same can be said for Adam Driver, who came off like this was his first paying role. Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, and Dax Shepard are all veterans of comedy, but none of them brought anything special to the table. I don’t know why Jane Fonda gets cast in these kind of roles in her later years. Was she always known for comedy? If so, she lost it, because she’s not the least bit funny to me. She’s just not somebody who makes me laugh.

This is Where I Leave you is one of those ensemble pieces that attempts to blend zany situations with over-the-top (meaning every single person is going through the worst period in their life at this point in time), but it just doesn’t work. There’s too much going on and even if there wasn’t, what was happening on screen simply wasn’t very engaging.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 15, 2015.

This is Where I Leave You