It’s pretty easy to be swayed to like a movie looking at the kind of cast it assembled. So when you hear Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, and Timothy Olyphant, you might think this is the next best thing. Well, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You barely beats being mediocre by the skin of its teeth.
This Is Where I Leave You has no real plot and follows the basic recipe of the forumalic family drama step by step. That being said, it still some how manages to bring out the laughs, just not in a hysterical way. Hit the jump for the full review.
The Altman family, Judd (Bateman), Wendy (Fey), Paul (Stoll), and Philip (Driver) are all brought home after they hear that their dad died. His final request was to have the four of them and their mother, Hilary (Fonda), spend seven days together, or a shiva, despite them not being Jewish. Expecting that they leave all their problems behind, Hilary expects this to be one of the final family get togethers, but all of them bring home different sets of baggage. Judd found out his wife has been cheating on him with his boss, Wendy is married to a husband who neglects, Paul is struggling to have a baby, and Philip is the free spirit with no direction in life. Then there are the relationships that they thought they left behind. So the moment the shiva starts, their past starts go from simmer on day one to full blown boil by the sixth day.
It’s not as though that was unexpected. A film like This is Where I Leave You, adapted from Jonathan Tropper‘s novel of the same name – he also wrote the screenplay – is as forumlaic as it gets. The film thrives on it’s crazy situations that you’d expect to see in sitcoms or any family comedy drama. The kid going through potty training has no problem showing what came out of him to his aunt and uncles. The lover left behind. The bad decisions that the free spirit kid makes time after time after time. We’ve all seen it before, and we will all very likely see it again.
This Is Where I Leave You feels like a dumb down version of August: Osage County, with the film centering on the perils of bringing your family home together after a long absence, only with Levy’s brand of whimsy humor. There is so much going on that some roles get lost in the shuffle, and some of the subplots, as many as of them as there are, gets more priority than the other. Which is a bit understandable, but it be nicer to see a sense of balance in the film instead of focusing on just one member of the family.
But the one person that steals the show is, once again, Adam Driver. He comes in with a high energy and is fully committed to Philip’s free spirited personality. Philip would obviously be the kind of character who would unemployed but say that he’s got many irons on the fire. And of course he would be the one who be dating his therapist (Connie Britton). But despite the tired old character tropes, Driver manages to bring it home in a very funny way.
Bateman is somewhat familiar with being the son trying to keep his highly dysfunctional family together considering he played the exact same character in Arrested Development. But instead of trying to keep it all together, Judd is tasked with keeping his wife’s affair a secret in seven days, and as you can imagine, being asked about his wife constantly doesn’t go over well with him.
Fey does a pretty descent job with the drama portion of her character, but does even a better job with comedy. That being said, it’s nice to see in a semi-dramatic role.
We rarely ever get to see Stoll, and most of the time he is complaining about either keeping the family shop alive or being on time to have sex with his wife so they can have a baby. There just isn’t enough screen time to go around this dysfunctional film, so you should probably cherish the time you get to see Stoll.
Fonda plays the know it all mother who had to endure four childbirths and keeping them in line. Her character clearly knows that she has given all the love and wisdom to her kids, but isn’t afraid to lay out a few more bits of them when they need it most.
So as you can see, the film is basic family comedy drama 101. Very formulaic, it tugs at the heart strings at all the expected moments, and you get very generic laughs. While This Is Where I Leave You falls into that very obvious trap,it is still a very good waste of time if you are looking for something to waste time on.