“This Is Where I Leave You” Movie Review


     Director Shawn Levy delves into the family get together genre with the Jason Bateman and Tina Fey vehicle “This Is Where I Leave You”.  Certainly his previous offerings which range from the “Night at the Museum” franchise to last year’s dud “The Internship” would lead you to believe he is well equipped to explore the various family relationships depicted in Jonathan Tropper’s novel and subsequent screenplay, but the results are mixed at best.  The film suffers from its overuse of cliched characters who seem standard for this type of story, and I can’t help but bring up the comparison with “August: Osage County” which is a far superior film in every way.  Tropper’s script is chalk full of recurring jokes that really aren’t funny initially and are consistently recycled for a few minor chuckles through out the film’s 103 minute running time.  Pieced together are a number of sitcom like scenes involving everything from three grown men laughing themselves silly in a Jewish elementary school classroom as they smoke pot to the obligatory sentimental moments where unhappily married people are confronted by the home town single girl who never left.  All of this has been seen before in several better films, leaving that stale been there done that feeling at its conclusion.

     The filmmakers leave absolutely no doubt why the film is titled “This Is Where I Leave You” when radio show producer Judd (Jason Bateman) comes home early to celebrate his wife’s birthday only to find her in bed with another man, who also happens to be his boss.  Life’s situations always seem to catch us at the worst possible moment and it’s not long after Judd receives a call from his mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda), telling him his father has passed away.  This becomes the catalyst for the entire family to gather under the parent’s roof for the funeral and to grant their father’s dying wish to have them sit “Shiva”, a Jewish ritual in which the family has daily gatherings for a week with people who wish to offer their condolences.  With each immediate family member seemingly engulfed in some sort of relationship instability, these scenes often serve as the spring board for many of the film’s attempts at comedy.

     You really couldn’t ask for a more completely stereotypical set of characters in one film.  The aforementioned Judd hasn’t told anyone of his current situation, choosing instead to tell everyone his wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer), has a herniated disc and couldn’t make the trip. Judd’s older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn) are a married couple who long for a child, but are unable to get pregnant.  Their younger brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), is the requisite loser who has no direction in his life, preferring instead to live life his way.  He shows up with a women said to be old enough to be his mother and who is also his therapist.  Do people really have therapists?  Their sister, Wendy (Tina Fey), arrives in a seemingly unhappy marriage as well, with two kids and a husband whose business exploits take precedence over the current family crisis. 

     All of these characters will seem familiar and even carbon copied from each and every family drama you may have seen over the years.  For good measure, Judd runs into a former flame, Penny (Rose Byrne), who he apparently had a great relationship with once upon a time, but chose his current wife instead and left town.  How convenient that all these years later she’s single, lives alone, and spends countless hours practicing ice skating routines in the rink she apparently works at as well, allowing him to seduce her on the ice while listening to 80s classics like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Judd isn’t the only one with someone waiting in the wings, as Wendy also finds herself attracted to a past boyfriend, Horry (Timothy Olyphant) who happens to still be living across the street from their mother, albeit he does suffer from a brain injury he sustained during a car accident in which Wendy was present.  She apparently didn’t feel guilty about it when they were younger and he probably really needed her, but with her marriage on the rocks, opportunity knocks!

     Each time something in the film falls flat, Levy simply glues two scenes together with one of the two jokes the film has to offer.  We either get another shot and a subsequent comment about Jane Fond’s breast augmentation and her willingness to flaunt it, or Wendy’s kid walks into the room with his portable toilet and goes number two.  Neither of the two were really funny the first time and neither is the fifth time either.  In between, we get a number of situations that just feel manufactured and the big reveal near the film’s end seems like a blatant attempt to match the same situation in “August: Osage County”.  Whereas that film’s third act had a certain authenticity to it, the big scene in “This Is Where I Leave You” is preposterous and a bit over the top.  Once the scene is proven ineffective, you come to realize the film as a whole won’t succeed as the characters then have nothing better to do than just go home.  GRADE: C-