This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
“Welcome Home. Get Uncomfortable.”
This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda
Synopsis: When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.
For someone who doesn’t do complicated, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman – Identity Thief, Smokin’ Aces) sure has a lot of it going on in This Is Where I leave You, Shawn Levy’s adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel, for which Tropper wrote the screenplay. In the film’s opening scenes we see him walking in on his wife (Abigail Spencer) and his boss (Dax Shepard) having sex in his bed and then later receiving a phone call from his sister, Wendy (Tina Fey – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) informing him that their father has just passed away. Worse than that, even though he wasn’t a practicing Jew, their Dad’s deathbed wish was that the whole family sit Shiva for him at the family home,.
The Jewish ritual of Shiva requires the entire family to live together under the same roof and receive guests for seven days. Naturally, such enforced confinement results in secrets being unearthed and home truths delivered. Judd has three siblings, an older brother, Paul (Corey Stoll – Midnight In Paris, Non-Stop) who stayed at home to run the family hardware store and is trying to have a baby with his wife, Annie (Kathryn Hahn – The Dictator, We’re the Millers), Phillip (Adam Driver – J. Edgar), the wild, sort-of black sheep of the family who shows up with his much older therapist lover, Tracy (Connie Britton – A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Wendy, who’s married to a businessman who would clearly rather be anywhere other than with the Altman family for a week. Wendy still has a thing for Horry (Timothy Olyphant – A Perfect Getaway), her former boyfriend who suffered mild brain damage in a car accident when they were youngsters. These siblings’ emotional complications are exacerbated by the fact that their mother (Jane Fonda – The China Syndrome) is a writer whose best-selling book was built around her offspring’s embarrassing secrets, and who has an inappropriately liberated attitude towards sex.
All the ingredients are there then for an amusing comedy-drama but, while Tropper succeeds admirably in paying equal attention to all the story’s interweaving strands, he fails to make any of the characters particularly likeable. Wendy blabs about the infidelity of Judd’s wife to the rest of the family simply because she has to tell someone, Judd neglects to inform the woman (Rose Byrne – Insidious, X-Men: First Class) who once had a crush on him, and whom he’s about to bed, that he’s just learned his wife is pregnant with his child; Philip is an immature idiot, and Annie is so desperate for a baby that she is prepared to cheat on her husband with Judd in order to have one. Honestly, they have to spend time in each other’s company, but why on earth would we want to?
The drama element of the storyline is nowhere near as strong as the comedy – and there’s a near-fatal final-reel twist which simply defies belief – but Tropper does at least manage to wring laughs out of what is a mostly bleak story. The film is aided by a good performance by Bateman – who’s usually something of an anonymous leading man – and his supporting cast, and Jane Fonda, looking incredible at 76, is still capable enough of turning what could have been an overbearing character into an ultimately sympathetic one. She really should keep her baps inside her nightgown, though, even if they are prosthetic…
(Reviewed 6th May 2015)