Jason Segel is brave, understated in 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home'
Jason Segel in a scene from Paramount Pictures' 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home.'
Published Friday, March 16, 2012 7:47AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:46AM EDT
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home"
Richard's Review: 3 stars
I'm not sure how to describe "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." It's sort of a comedy, kind of a drama and a bit of a character study. Yet it isn't completely any of those things. The indie directing duo, the Duplass Brothers, have mixed and matched tones and come up with something that is likeable despite this film's strange premise and characters.
Thirty-something man-child Jeff (Jason Segel) is unemployed and still lives in his mother's (Susan Sarandon) basement. His worldview is formed by the enormous amount of drugs he smokes and the M. Night Shyamalan movie "Signs." To him nothing is random. Everything is a sign. When his mom sends him on an errand, a series of "omens" find Jeff chasing after a stranger named Kevin and becoming involved in his breakup of his brother's (Ed Helms) marriage.
"Jeff, Who Lives At Home" exists at the intersection where indie and mainstream films meet, nicely blending the rough-and-ready sensibility of the directors with the appeal of this A-list cast. This movie is deeply connected to its characters and the relationships that bind them. For me, that bought a great deal of good will.
I could have done without the quick zoom the Duplass Brothers use to accentuate visual punch lines. The soundtrack was also a bit twee for my taste. But the film's strengths overshadow these precious elements.
These characters may be edgy and even unlikeable -- all except for Sarandon's world-weary single mom and her free spirited co-worker played by Rae Dawn Chong.
The title character, Jeff, may also be hard to relate to. Even so, audiences soon come to care about these figures because this film lacks cynicism.
The cast is uniformly strong, but this is Segel's movie. Segel's a mainstream sitcom star, a stoner star and a friend of Muppets. He's appeared with full-frontal nudity on the big screen. Segel is fearless and, in this case, unafraid to underplay his character where other actors would not.
Segel has all the movie's funniest lines and delivers them well. However, when Jeff says to his brother, "You and mom will never understand me, and you're all I have left," he reveals a sad, broken side to his character.
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" isn't a movie for everyone. But those willing to connect with this film and its unusual tone will find much to enjoy here.
Richard's Review: 3 stars
Robert De Niro's newest film, "Being Flynn," places him back where we first noticed him, behind the wheel of a New York City cab.
Based on a memoir by writer Nick Flynn, the movie is a dual narrative between a father and son who are both wannabe writers with addiction problems. It begins with Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), a disturbed man who holds onto the belief that there are only three classic American writers: Mark Twain, J.D Salinger and Jonathan Flynn. The fact that Flynn is unpublished does not diminish any of his claims to greatness. He'll tell anyone who'll listen about his masterpiece as he drives his cab.
When his delusions grow more intense, however, Flynn loses his job and his apartment. But his conviction that he is a great writer remains unchanged.
Along with Jonathan's story, audiences also learn about his son Nick (Paul Dano).
Nick has been drifting through life since his father left and landed in jail. Taking a job at a homeless shelter seems to give Nick purpose, as does his relationship with Denise (played by Olivia Thirlby). That changes after Nick's father contacts him, looking for a favour and a bed at the homeless shelter later in the film. The presence of his father forces Nick to recognize that he has more in common with this stranger than he cares to admit.
"Being Flynn" is a bleak character study that scrapes by on the strength of its performances.
De Niro is looser than we've seen him in years, getting underneath the skin of a man who is courtly one moment, deluded, racist and violent the next. His vibrant work brings humanity to a very unlikeable character.
Best known for his work in "There Will Be Blood," Dano is properly haunted here by memories of his mother's death and the strained relationship with his father. Gaunt to the point of making Keith Richards look healthy, Dano is convincing as a man trying to find his way through a fog.
Julianne Moore has a small but pivotal role that adds to the acting fireworks. But the film's structure and dual story are hard going. Add to that a story even Debbie Downer would find depressing and you have a film that rewards viewers with good performances while penalizing them with bleak subject matter.