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This Is Where I Leave You

October 7, 2014

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Hilary Altman: For the next seven days, you are all my children again and you are all grounded.

Sometimes a film works merely based on an all-star cast. You can get away with some passionless writing if you have a convincing cast.  This Is Where I Leave You is the newest film from director Shawn Levy and has enough fluff to entertain those familiar with the talent on display.  It’s fun watching these characters deal with the unbearable situations they manage to get themselves into and how they revel in each other’s company.  Imperfections aside and bolstered by first-rate performances, I was delighted to sit this Shiva. 

Based on the novel by Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You follows four siblings (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll) who reunite with their mother (Jane Fonda) after their father passes away.  To honor their father and please their mother’s wishes, they reluctantly agree to sit Shiva for the next seven days in their childhood home.  Throughout the visit they encounter old flames and new loves.  With a week under their belt, the Altman family have to learn to get along under erratic circumstances.

There are a bunch of nugatory subplots going on in this cluttered film.  There’s one involving Bateman’s character pursuing a romantic interest in an old flame Penny (Rose Byrne) despite recently breaking things off with his wife (Abigail Spencer) after she cheated on him with his boss (Dax Shepard).  Timothy Olyphant plays a neighbor across the street who used to date Fey’s character until he suffered brain damage.  Then we have Corey Stoll and his baby-obsessed wife (Kathryn Hahn) trying to conceive a child to everyone’s dismay.  There’s a lot going on here that could have been further expanded on.

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For a film with the likeness of Jason Bateman and Tina Fey, Tropper’s script plays things surprisingly safe and incredibly predictable.  The last half of the movie seemed tone deaf.  Events went by so fast that I didn’t even have time to process what had transpired.  There seemed to be multiple story lines intersecting at the same time.  This was distracting and it had an episodic structure to it.  In the end, it came down to the four leads that lifted this up and over.

Jason Bateman is an actor whose immense geniality cannot be hidden no matter what role he takes up.  He’s one of the most likable actors of this generation.  Bateman is the lead role among others in this film and carries much of it on his back.  Tina Fey, who brings warm sentiment and clever one-liners to the table, is intermittently sharp and heartwarming here.  Corey Stoll isn’t given much to do but the way he bounces off Kathryn Hahn’s offbeat psyche is entertaining to observe.  Lastly we have Adam Driver, who’s best known for his recurring role on HBO’s absorbing comedy Girls.  Driver is compelling here and provides much of the comic relief.  I’m overjoyed to see him getting a role on the big screen; can’t wait to see him in the next Star Wars movie.

An appealing cast keeps our interest even though this dark comedy drifts down gratuitous roads and parks into clichéd melodrama.

This Is Where I Leave You – 3 out of 5

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