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THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

This Is where I leave YouDirector Shawn Levy
Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda

 

In many ways This Is Where I Leave You is the inverse to August: Osage County which screened earlier this year. Whereas both are based on the same basic premise (family with issues come together due to the passing of a father – secrets are revealed and must be addressed for the relationships to continue), August: Osage County is a bitterly humorous tale of destruction that salts the earth afterwards, whereas This Is Where I Leave You is wryly comedic, restorative and uplifting. It is at the lightweight end of dramedy in comparison to Osage County‘s overly heavy drama beats, but ultimately This Is Where I Leave You is the more audience friendly of the two, and perhaps more successful in its intent.

Judd Altman’s (Jason Bateman) life is in tatters, after finding his wife in bed with his boss costs him both his marriage and his job. While wallowing in self pity, he is informed that his father has died, and it was his dying wish (as an agnostic) to have his family sit shiva. So Judd finds himself reuniting with his family, in the town he grew up in (and subsequently fled), trying to deal with their various dramas for seven days, as well as his own.

Adapted by writer Jonathan Tropper from his book of the same name, This Is Where I Leave You manages to achieve the right balance of comedy and family drama. Far from perfect, it is too lightweight and fluffy, content to spell out its moral message of growth and rediscovery in some fairly obvious, tried and true, cinema-tested ways (yes, the ’80s did teach us that any deep and meaningful with a love interest should be set to Psychedelic Furs), but never beyond the expected confines of the genre. As such it is an enjoyable film rather than a great one, but the comedic elements and believable performances pitch it just about right.
Here the surprisingly strong comedic cast are a great help. There is a chemistry amongst them that makes their bickering and sniping feel easy and natural, like that a real family would do. Jason Bateman is amazingly contained as Judd, effectively underplaying the role as his character refuses to confront the issues facing his personal life. Effectively Judd has his emotions bottled up so tight that an explosion is imminent, and the week with his family acts as a pressure valve for that. Tina Fey (30 Rock) is perhaps less developed, but comes across well in her interaction with Bateman, even if these brother and sister chats occasional spell out any emotional arc in too obvious a fashion. Mention must also be made of Jane Fonda as the recently surgically-enhanced matriarch of the family, with a fondness for over-sharing.

Pitched just about right for an enjoyable evening at the movies, rather than a memorable one This Is Where I Leave You won’t make it onto any must see lists, but is a solid example of the genre competently handled by the cast.

 

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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