Director : Shawn Levy
Writer : Jonathan Tropper
This is Where I Leave You would have looked great on paper. Based on a popular book with a killer cast that included Hollywood royalty (Jane Fonda), a likeable lead (Jason Bateman) and the next big thing (Adam Driver), success would have felt assured.
New York radio producer Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) catches his wife cheating on him with his boss. While grieving the loss of his wife and his life, he gets a call that his Father has died. That's a bad day, but on the upside he had already had a head start on growing his sad beard.
Going home shifts the focus from one's man's personal struggle to a family ensemble, and just like going home for Christmas in real-life, it's overwhelming. Judd is one of four adult children, and with their families, plus neighbours and an annoying Rabbi, the house is chaotic.
The premise has their non-Jewish mother (Jane Fonda) doing whatever it takes to get the family in one place for a week by making them sit "shiva" for their non-Jewish Father. While you can forgive the artificial construct, the concept of staying in that house for seven days is as daunting for the audience as it is for the kids.
Thomas Wolfe's line' You can't go home again" has become accepted by recent generations to mean that once you leave your childhood backwater for a major metropolis you can't go back. But Judd's experience is challenging this. In eyeing over the horizon he may have missed what was at his feet, but now Penny(Rose Byrne) is standing in front of him in ice skates and he is tempted to stay.
But Judd's isn't the only storyline we have to deal with. Along with the grieving, we have a dose of sibling rivalry, some regret over a lost love and a bit of infertility sprinkled on top. It all adds up to a family sandwich which is too hard to wrap your mouth around and leaves a big mess on your plate.
It's a tricky line to walk, because if you have Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll in the support cast you want to use them, but ultimately the sheer weight of the cast overwhelms the movie and it becomes a jumpy, unsatisfying look into a family of adults that are still growing up. And it reminds you that not all books need to be filmed.
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