This Is Where I Leave You
Based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You begins, cheerily enough, with the death of a father. At the instigation of their mother (played by Jane Fonda, looking rather like she’s had her face ironed), the four grown siblings of the Altman family are welded together beneath the roof of the childhood home in the hope that they will reconcile, grieve and arrive as a harmonious unit at some kind of catharsis.
The difficulty arises in that the family are, as a whole, dysfunctional and, as individuals, each caught in their own narcissistic web waiting to be exposed to the glare of familial scrutiny and mockery.
The most fundamental flaw with this comedy drama is that its attempts at humour fall far short of the bar required to be a legitimate comedy, and similarly, the drama is diluted of any real potency by its formulaic predictability. The film is hobbled still further by the neurotic unpleasantness of the four siblings and the lack of inter-relational believability of the dialogue that renders any empathy with them a distinct challenge.
At worst, the self-obsessed sister (played by Tina Fey) claims to “never be able to love anyone as much” as a neighbour ex-boyfriend afflicted with mental difficulties since a car accident in which they were involved. Yet this overwhelming love cannot prevent her from driving off again with her rich husband in their family 4×4, leaving him to (what she herself describes as) his “constant loneliness”. Meanwhile, Jason Bateman, suffering something of an existential crisis since he discovers his wife cheating on him with his boss, is perhaps the most sympathetic character, yet even he ends up wallowing in scene after scene of exhaustingly maudlin self-pity.
There’s no doubt that this film may well hit the mark for those looking for harmless light entertainment, that some may find it humorous and maybe even a little heart-warming in its confused moral conclusion as to the rigidity of the family unit. Many, though, will quickly grow numb to the saccharine sentimentality that pervades each and every scene; the lachrymose exchanges between alternating characters punctuated by a smattering of repeated gags, such as the exaggerated chest of Fonda’s matriarchal figure.
In the end, this is not a film entirely devoid of merit, and nowhere near awful enough to justify avoiding on principle, but ultimately it’s a confused and inconsequential effort by director Shawn Levy, which most would be encouraged to let slip past them.
This Is Where I Leave You is released nationwide on 24th October 2014.
Watch the trailer for This Is Where I Leave You here: