Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the new film from Jay and Mark Duplass whose previous films include the indie comedies Baghead and Cyrus.
This one concerns a 30-year old slacker named Jeff, played by Jason Segel. Jeff spends most of his time in mother’s basement. His favorite film is Signs which inspires him to look for “signs” to give him direction in his own life. This frustrates his mother Sharon, played by Susan Sarandon, who just wants him to fix a shutter and make runs to Home Depot. Meanwhile, his brother Pat, played by Ed Helms is having marital problems and impulsively buys a Porche.
After he answers a wrong number asking for someone named Kevin, Jeff decides that following anything with that name will be his new destiny. A series of misadventures ensue that lead to a climax involving all of the characters. The scene is a bit hard to buy but makes a certain sense in relation to Jeff’s spiritual drive.
The Duplass Brothers attempt to take this character in an original direction. In the beginning, audiences may think that Segel is playing someone similar to film roles he’s played in I Love You Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He’s actually much more complex and strangely deep here. However, situations involving his brother and mother seem, for most of the film, as if they’re part of another movie. Sharon, for instance, has a secret admirer at work and finding the person becomes her major quest. These scenes don’t particularly work and the resolution feels false.
I began to wonder why the film’s title was Jeff Who Lives at Home since so much of the film is devoted to these other family members. Fortunately storylines do converge in the climax although I’m not sure if this happens soon enough. Generally the script feels a bit unstructured and many of the scenes seem randomly placed.
Some of this might be blamed on the improvisational approach the Duplass Brothers use with their actors. It would be hard to believe though that the directors didn’t have a larger unified trajectory for the characters in mind.
In the end, I was mixed on the film and left a bit unsatisfied. The idea is original yet it seems to be lacking some cohesion and authenticity.