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Jeff, Who Lives at Home - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: A-

A whole lot of Jeff, Who Lives at Home just plain made me uncomfortable. Several scenes feature characters clearly headed for awkward situations, and it just makes me squirm in my seat. I don't particularly enjoy that. The difference here is that, in the end, it pays off.

This is a story that takes place over the course of one day. The day happens to be Jeff's mom's birthday. Jeff's mom, played by Susan Sarandan, spends most of the day in her cubicle at work -- baffled by the secret admirer who keeps IMing her on AOL. (Is this movie set in 1998?)

Jeff is played with expert awkwardness by Jason Segel. He lives in his mother's basement, even though he's 30 years old. He lives his life following "signs" he tries to assign meaning to, even though most of them are just random occurrences. He's obsessed with the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs; in fact he discusses it with his tape recorder while sitting on the toilet in the opening scene. There's something weirdly endearing about how earnest he is.

Ed Helms is perfectly cast as Jeff's uptight older brother, Pat, who only thinks he's got it together because he has a wife and a job. But his wife (Judy Greer) is increasingly exasperated with him. Given that within this one day, Pat both buys a Porsche against her wishes and later runs it into a tree, that's kind of understandable.

Helms and Segel play adult brothers well, particularly when they both have their own forms of arrested development. Jeff's obsession with finding meaning in everyday occurrences predictably leads to a pretty significant convergence of events, but the journey there is never forced and is always believable -- especially when he's "following signs" you know are not going to end well, or at least they won't end comfortably. But it all leads to a very satisfying conclusion, and the roads taken by all three of these characters (Jeff, Pat, and their mom) are themselves interesting surprises.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is only 83 minutes long. Movies that short are not usually this good. This is a very unusual case of truly concise and skilled editing. There is no moment wasted, no dead time or even lulls. Co-directors and co-writers Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass also gave us the excellent Cyrus in 2010, which is uncomfortably satisfying in a similar way. These guys know how to iron quirks in their characters so they don't come across as self-conscious but rather genuine.

That's really the key element of this movie: it's both awkward and funny, but mostly it's genuine. You don't usually get performances this nuanced in a comedy, but this isn't just mindless entertainment. There is depth and layers to the humor, underscoring the characters' humanity. On the whole, it's just a lovely film.

jeff, who lives at home

Overall: B+
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