Friday, September 19, 2014

[Review] This Is Where I Leave You

"I don't do complicated."

This Is Where I Leave You is like the offspring of Death at a Funeral and August Osage County, except it inherited all the good traits from Death at a Funeral and spared all the cynical Southern Gothic theatrics of August Osage County.

Comedies about dysfunctional families are common, but it's for good reason. This Is Where I Leave You provides the right kind of raunch and the right kind of sentimentality, making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We have a great ensemble cast here, which includes the likes of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and Timothy Olyphant. Each one is spot-on in their role.

Judd (Batemam), Wendy (Fey), Phillip (Driver), and Paul (Stoll) are estranged siblings. After they learn that their father has died, they're forced to engage in a seven day mourning period under the same roof together with their crazy mother (Fonda). Of course, the siblings can barely manage to sit in the same room with one another. During the eternal week, heads are butted, secrets are revealed, madness ensues, and yes, there is an obligatory fight scene on the front lawn. It's all so juicy.

Multiple strains of jokes and gags are cleverly weaved throughout, and there are some hilarious lines of banter, provoking plenty of laughs even when things get serious. The film does go for the tender spots, delivering a lot of nostalgic moments and character transformations. Its story thrives on internal conflicts, as well as the dynamics between each family member. The heart-to-heart conversations are piled on, but they're nice and meaningful, rather than schmaltzy. Alright, some of them are schmaltzy, but it's okay.

Everyone in the cast is wonderful, but Adam Driver in particular is a scene-stealer, standing out as the slacker miscreant of the family that actually ends up being the glue. And with so many characters involved in this film, it's impressive that they all function as at least two-dimensional personalities.

Sure, most of the setups lead to pandering and predictability, there are a couple of off-putting scenes, and the story sends some mixed messages... But hey, stuff is complicated.


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