“This is Where I Leave You” a Family on the Edge (Film Review)

THIS IS poster


Working with an extremely good cast This is Where I Leave You opens in theaters for an adult audience.  While the film does entertain, no doubt about it, it’s hard to get over the feeling that I’ve seen it before.  Not that the trailer gives it all away, but the film August: Osage County still sticks in my mind being one of my 2013 favorites.  However, although it’s very similar in the storyline, this film dishes out most of the animosity with a side of comedy and romance rather than a serious tone.  With adult couples missing in action from theaters due to a glut of action, adventure and crime thrillers, this dramedy should get their attention.

The film opens with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) getting a call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) following the revelation that his wife has been cheating on him. She informs him that their dad has passed away and he should come to his hometown to be with his family.  Arriving he finds his mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) is very distraught, his older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) worried about the future of the store he’s been running for his father and his younger brother Phillip (Adam Driver) with Tracy (Connie Britton) a cougar a decade plus older.

The children Wendy (Fey), Judd (Bateman) Paul ( Stoll) and Phillip (Driver)

The children Wendy (Fey), Judd (Bateman) Paul ( Stoll) and Phillip (Driver)

The funeral takes place quite quickly and the family settles in at the homestead.  Trying to avoid the past negatives between family members, the sons try to make excuses to leave, but Hillary insists that their father wanted them to sit Shiva for a 7 day period.  When the family starts opening old wounds and trying to rip down walls between each other the group finds it digging upward through a pile of rubble.

Director Shawn Levy mixes a good amount of comedy with his dramatic storyline especially since he has two of the top comedians in the business in his cast.  He sets up several key situations and then sneaks in the unexpected punch lines that provide some very big laughs. Levy has a keen sense of humor and it shows in his production because the comedic timing by the cast is right on the money.

Jane Fonda as mom and Jason Bateman as Judd

Jane Fonda as mom and Jason Bateman as Judd

Having Bateman and Fey as his leads how could Levy miss as the two consummate comics are perfect for the very funny script. Of course there’s the argument that Bateman always plays the innocent who takes it on the chin while others around him beat him up in a comic tizzy.  Much like his Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief he’s always the butt of the joke and he does it well. Hardly ever getting the upper hand in this film, you just know the lovable oaf will still come out on top.  Sharing some very nice chemistry with Rose Burn as Penny his high school sweetheart, who has been carrying a torch for him all these years, the film side steps the bickering for a respite of romance.

As his steadfast sister Wendy, Tina Fey shows Wendy has issues of her own, but finds herself defending Judd who has been taking all the heat for past family issues.  She seems to have it all together considering she has two kids in tow and across the street from mom’s home lives Horry (Timothy Olyphant) her long lost love that has brain damage.  She’s the control in the melee of what’s left of the Altman family and she delivers her character with aplomb.

Phillip (Adam Driver) with his cugar fiancée Tracy (Connie Britton)

Phillip (Adam Driver) with his cugar fiancée Tracy (Connie Britton)

Getting to the tightest screw in the hinge, Jane Fonda plays the conniving Hillary who gets her brood to sit next to each other for hours each day hoping they’ll come to their senses.  She knows each of her children is broken and Hillary’s the one who’s going to fix them come hell or high water.  But her determination does have a few drawbacks and we find her revealing things that she’s been holding back for ages.  Fonda gives a well rounded performance and proves she actually can act when given the right script.

This is Where I Leave You has been rated R by the MPAA for language, sexual content and some drug use. It may be a comedy, but be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate for adolescents.  Because of the release of August: Osage County you may have some déjà vu, but the comedy/drama here turns a different corner or two on its way to their predictable ending.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A fun film for a night out with diner and a movie. (C )

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz.
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Running Time: 1hr 43 min
Release Date: September 19, 2014
Distributed by: Warner Bros
Release Formats: 2D

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