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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Seek The Signs

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: March 16, 2012 (limited) – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 83 minutes
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon,
Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" has one of the best openings I've seen in a while: the title character (played by Jason Segel) is sitting down talking about M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" and how it may apply to his own life. His location isn't immediately obvious, and for some reason, he has a recorder in his hands. I fell in love with the movie right away.

Jeff is a stoner who (obviously) lives at home, in his mother's basement. Early on, he has to run an errand for his mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon, somehow looking younger and better than ever). From there, Jeff encounters his brother, Pat (played by Ed Helms as sort of a darker, more uptight version of his character from "The Hangover"). Perhaps it's destiny? A sign? Or maybe Pat's wife, Linda (Judy Greer), is having an affair and he needs to enlist the unlikely aid of Jeff to figure out exactly what's going on. Meanwhile, Jeff is obsessed with a person – or people – named Kevin after receiving a call from one. A wrong number or a sign?  

With that kind of setup, don't expect a realistic narrative. It's a charming fable of sorts, with signs and destiny weaving their way through the lives of the characters.

Segel and Helms are superb as bickering brothers, and Susan Sarandon plays their mother with the perfect mix of impatience and resignation. As the film progresses, you can see that she carries around traits from both of her sons.

Judy Greer and screen veteran Rae Dawn Chong round out the cast. It is always a pleasure to see Dawn Chong, here as Sharon's co-worker, Carol. This character certainly has nothing in common with the one she played in perhaps her most famous role: the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie "Commando." I will say no more.

With Segel and Helms as the stars, most people would probably go in expecting a rip-roaring comedy – but this is really a drama with some light, humorous moments.

Even though the story is filled with many unlikely coincidences (signs), everyone portrays a real human being. Because of that, I found myself really caring about each of their lives.

"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is a simple but touching story with beautiful performances. Jason Segel, in particular, plays what might be the best role of his career.

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