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REVIEW – Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)

September 21, 2012

FilmJuice have my review of Jay and Mark Duplass’s indie dramedy Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

A little while ago, I wrote a piece giving full vent to my growing feelings of frustration with US ‘independent’ film. Once a home to quirky and insightful comedy-drama hybrids, US independent film is now a highly formulaic cultural space where directors make and re-make the same films over and over again while Hollywood A-listers grub for awards by pretending to be normal people with normal problems. However, as much as I felt that Reitman’s Young Adult was a retread of an already overly-familiar path, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is possibly the most generic film of all time:

Packed with stock characters wandering through the kind of character arcs that grace dozens of other films, the Duplass brothers deliver the achingly familiar in a style that is as safe as it is forgettable. In fact, this film’s characters are so recognisable that one cannot help but feel deprived of the actors that are usually typecast in these particular roles. For example, Segel is as likeable here as he was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but his turn as a rudderless geek with a heart of gold lacks the satisfying bedrock of anger and self-loathing that the likes of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill usually bring to this character type. Similarly, Helms’ Pat is a gruff pepper pot of squabbling neuroses but his charmless irritability does nothing but remind us of the profound humanity that allowed Paul Giamatti to effectively monopolise this type of part.

The worst thing about this film is that on the margins of the plot, partly obscured by white middle-class males ‘learning’ and ‘growing’, is a beautiful sub-plot featuring Susan Sarandon as a woman who, in late middle-age, comes to realise that what she really needs to make her happy is a sexless love affair without another straight woman. Both a much needed response to the growth in bromance movies and an amusing nod to the sexless love of Thelma and Louise, this sub-plot really does merit its own film. Fuck generic white guys, give me non-heteronormative middle-aged women!

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