Having received some attention as official selections at Toronto, Chicago and Austin film festivals, Mark and Jay Duplass’ Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a surprising film. An intelligent, real and rich yet artfully simple comedy, Jeff, Who Lives At Home follows the comedy trend of such films as Jonathan Dayton’s Little Miss Sunshine or Craig Gillespie’s Lars and the Real Girl. Realism in style and delivery, but non-linearity and depth of plot, take the film away from becoming another generic genre flick.
Jason Segel plays Jeff, a 30-year-old man who lives in his mother’s basement and whose main hobby is smoking weed. His assured, laid-back approach to life infuriates his uptight and repressed brother Pat (Ed Helms), who doesn’t believe in fate. Jeff is convinced that everything happens for a reason. As his widowed mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon) searches for autonomy, youth and excitement, Pat fights for his marriage and Jeff searches for a man called Kevin, fate begins to conspire. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can change your life. This is something Jeff believed all along.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a subtle film, as much a drama as it is a comedy. Shot in a polished amateur documentary style (like The Office), but avoiding the loss of immersion that is often attached to this technique, Jeff, Who Lives At Home has managed to instantly separate itself from the general norm, at least stylistically and aesthetically. It seems that the comedy genre has been expanding in the past few years, with an influx of intelligent, indirect and often understated comedies coming to the fore over abrupt rom-coms and citing a move away from brashness. Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a welcome addition to this trend.
This film is about uncertainty and fear that life isn’t going the way you imagined it, but also and mostly the way these concerns are often brushed under the rug. Pat and Sharon crave a change in their lives while their lack of belief in themselves brings them down. This is what makes Jeff such an interesting and memorable character: he seems to do the least,but has the greatest handle on his existence because he believes in the beauty of life’s little coincidences. Ironically, he is not afraid to take opportunities whilst those around him are instinctively cautious of them. Sharon reacts to a secret admirer at her office by assuming it to be a joke, whereas Jeff follows a man called Kevin who he happens to see on a bus, causing a remarkable chain of events. Constantly open and honest (sometimes to a fault) Jeff is a character we all wish we could be a little more like. While Segel is playing a similar character to his role as Sydney Fife in I Love You, Man, the precise subtlety of Jeff’s influence on the world around him in this film, makes this a far more complex role.
The film has sold itself as one about destiny, but you don’t have to believe in fate to appreciate the remarkably well-plotted narrative and thankfully unsappy ending. The Duplass’ have managed to write a host of characters that perfectly tread the path between familiarity and likeability. You will see a little bit of yourself in every character, a dangerous trait to inject, because too often it can strike a nerve and provoke hostility. Jeff, Who Lives At Home has used characters who remind us of ourselves to articulate gently, subtly and funnily a fear we all share: what are we doing with our lives and how can we know if we’re on the right path? This film won’t give you any answers but you won’t be so scared of uncertainty anymore.
Watch the trailer here