Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You (2014; dir. Shawn Levy) would like its audience to feel amused and heartwarming as an eccentric group of family members come together to sit shiva for their dead father. There are definite emotional moments, and not a small number of comic ones, but in general the film invokes every hackneyed cliché imaginable. Think The Big Chill and The Royal Tenenbaums and any installment of the Fockers franchise and stir them all together and dilute them and overcook them and you have something like this film. There is the loud and un-self-censoring mother who says whatever comes into her mind, especially when it is embarrassing to her adult children, especially when it involves her sex life with her deceased husband. There is the oldest brother, who stayed at home to run the family hardware store, and not very well, and who is jealous of the siblings who left home.  (He and his wife are desperately trying to conceive a child).  There is a bitter sister in a loveless marriage (Tina Fey).  There is a middle brother (Jason Bateman) who has just discovered his wife having sex with his boss. She appears halfway through the film to announce she is pregnant.  And there is the fuck-up youngest brother who has never grown up, and who is very aware of his failures. As these family members mourn, they argue, reminisce, have tender moments, and fight. There are reunions with former lovers. There are humiliating scenes in front of family friends and neighbors. There’s a shocking revelation.  And so on. Tina Fey is especially good as the bitter sister.  Jason Bateman is likable as the brother with the errant wife. Jane Fonda, not much of an actor in my estimation, does as well as she can with her heavily drawn character of the widowed mother. At the end of this film, as everyone leaves, I am glad to see them go.  

Family life has never been so reducible, so reductive.

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