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THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (review)

this_is_where_i_leave_youTHIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU
Written by Jonathan Tropper
Directed by Shawn Levy
Starring Jason Bateman, Tinay Fey, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda
 
Hilary Altman: You can’t leave; we’re sitting shiva.

Wendy Altman: Mom, you’re sitting right where we put the Christmas tree each year.

The Altman family is a relatively large one. There’s a mother, a father and four siblings who vary in age and closeness. When the father dies, the mother (as played here by a loving and buxom, Jane Fonda) hosts all of the children as they come home for the funeral. With them, they bring one wife, one fiancé, one husband, one child and a whole lot of baggage and history. It is a crowded house to say the least and, as this cast is rounded out by the likes of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn (and even more outside of the house itself), it is a talented house as well. Unfortunately, servicing the vastness of the cast, takes away from the potential for greatness, leaving Shawn Levy’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, feeling rushed and one dimensional. Given that it clocks in at around an hour and forty-three minutes, I can’t help but think that Levy could have gone a little deeper still but I’m not convinced he knows how.

this-is-where-i-leave-you-sieben-verdammt-lange-tage-filmszene

Bateman plays Judd, the main focal point in this story. We meet him when he isn’t at his best. He has just caught his wife (Abigail Spencer) in bed with his boss (Dax Shepard) and a few short months later (although in the film it feels more like the next day), his father dies. Sitting shiva, a Jewish funeral tradition that finds the deceased’s family sitting low to the ground at home for seven days as they are visited by the bereaved, forces Judd to be in confined quarters with a family that has a complicated history at a time when he just wants to be alone. As there is little time for actual character development, the rest of the family is reduced to one note performances. Fey’s Wendy is the wisecracking woman who settled instead of following her heart; Stoll’s Paul is the eldest brother who married one of Judd’s ex’s (Hahn); Driver is the youngest sibling who can’t get his act together but of course wants to; and Fonda is the matriarch that just wants her kids all under the same roof again. All of these scenarios are entirely plausible but their simplification negates all the history that had to be there for them to get there in the first place. As a result, so much of the film’s depth is expected to be just understood instead of actually being conveyed.

This Is Where I Leave You - Jane Fonda Wallpaper

Levy is famous for directing large scale, broad comedies, like the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM series, and is out of his element with this dramedy. It is just as large from a cast perspective and certainly just as broad from a comedic perspective, but the more dramatic elements are entirely lost on Levy. His cast is left to pull much of the weight and, though they put forth quite a valiant effort, they aren’t fully capable of carrying this load. Fey seems at times out of her depth, while Stoll is just simply underused, but Driver continues to show how unexpected and subtle he can be and Bateman exhibits a sensitivity that is often lacking in his dry, witty performances. The way the actors all play off of each other, and the laughs they naturally illicit, is what saves THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU from complete disaster. The ensemble chemistry may be the heart of this film but rushing to get to the heart of each character is what ultimately undermines the genuineness Levy is so clearly striving for.

3 sheep

 

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give This Is Where I Leave You?

4 (80%) 1 vote

 

One Comment

  1. Horrible show, never got going! Wish I had never spent my money on this terrible show! Could have been so good if only they would have thought it through, but someone did not do that! This is a no go!

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