(Judy Greer is amazing in The Descendants, just so you know.)
The best kinds of movies are those concerned with destiny and the human condition, but the most interesting ones do it in a messy way. When the Duplass Brothers’ latest effort, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, opened with Jeff (played by Jason Segel) talking about the role of destiny in a scene from M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs (which is, admittedly, one of my favorite movies), I knew I would be in for an interesting ride. Both movies are about finding destiny in a messy way, and I’m okay with that.
There’s not much plot to the Duplass’ movie. Jeff lives at home (like the title!) with his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Sharon is frustrated at work, but her life becomes more exciting when she receives messages from a secret admirer. Pat (Ed Helms) is Jeff’s brother, who suspects that his wife (Judy Greer) may be cheating on him. But the real star of the movie is a stranger named Kevin and the way he affects all of the characters’ destinies.
Everyone in the movie is changed by Jeff’s optimistic outlook on life during the course of one day. Stylistically, the movie doesn’t attempt to do a whole lot, and it doesn’t really need to. The quartet of actors carries the movie, and that’s what the core of the movie is about. The story moves along a brisk pace, mostly thanks to quick edits, and clocks in at a short 82 minutes.
The movie doesn’t use a lot of tropes present in previous Duplass Bros mumblecore entries, but the dialogue does seem very natural. Mumblecore-style jerky camera movements and zooms dominate the beginning of the movie and get extremely distracting, but as the movie progresses it seems more natural. I’m not actually sure why I keep using the term “mumblecore” here because this movie (and last year’s Cyrus) have mainstreamed the mumblecore movement.
Production value in the movie seems kind of lacking, but I think it matches the thematic themes. The sets are ordinary, but honestly it would be distracting if the sets were lavish. The sets are simple because these characters are living simple, boring lives until this strange day. The lighting here is plain as well, and it almost has a harsh quality that gives the characters more realism.
I can see how the ending of the movie could be divisive for some and tonally off, but if you believe in the characters like I did, it totally works. It’s all about Jeff’s (messy) destiny, just like it was your destiny to read this review.