Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Movie Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

This is a really beautiful film; it’s beautifully acted, directed, written and scored. ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ is what happens when every component that goes into the making of a film is perfectly suited to produce a final product that is exactly what the filmmaker intended. Simply put, 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' is a modern day indie masterpiece.

Jeff is a 30 year old man who still lives in the basement of his mother’s home, he is a man desperately looking for signs in his life, something to point him towards his destiny and what he is meant to do. When one day his mother asks him make a repair in the house, Jeff ventures out to collect the materials and follows a sign that takes him to an unexpected place, following a chain of events Jeff spends the day following his destiny and connecting with his family in a way he never before has.

I was really astounded by the story of this film, it’s so simple yet speaks to so much more than just what the story deals with, the underlying pain, sadness and apathy of the characters is displayed to the audience as they become more and more drawn into the film. There is a hilarious monologue at the beginning of the film where Jeff, whilst sitting on the toilet, records himself on a tape recorder speaking about his love for the film ‘Signs’ which he considers the perfect film and how much it speaks to his philosophy in life, this is an instant and pure example of what kind of character Jeff is.  Jeff’s optimistic and heartfelt mind make him an ideal lead character for this movie as he is the voice of hope and fate over logic and reality, his personality and belief in destiny affects each character in the film as he enriches their lives by inspiring them to be better. It may not seem so at first but ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ as well as being a hilarious film examining the lives of a family is one of the most touching tales in cinema over the past decade, I personally was bowled over by its personality and character and thrilled by its humour and story.

Pat and Jeff argue over their differing philosophies in life.

This is what I would consider a true feel good film. It doesn’t try to elicit emotion by forcing a story of such obvious melancholy on the audience; instead it tells a truly engrossing tale of such a simple series of events that have such a huge impact for the characters that experience them. When the movie ends you really do have the feeling that people can be better if they try hard enough and you will certainly be aware of the mistakes you make everyday by not appreciating what you have that others don’t.

The movie really has a personal tone expressed not only through its absolutely brilliant script or acting but also through the camerawork employed by the directors. During most of the dialogue scenes between the characters the camera is tight to the faces of the actors, filling most of the screen. This gives a personal touch because you can see every emotion written on their face without a word being said, its certainly effective in helping the audience to relate with the characters and truly feel for them as the story progresses.

I could not go without mentioning the magnificent performances that are the most integral part of this terrific movie. Jason Segal plays the lead role of the eponymous Jeff brilliantly and delivers a multi-layered intelligent performance with many facets of intrigue and humanity. Segal plays Jeff as I think no other actor could, Jeff is a young man who sees life with such refreshing optimism and belief in people that is seldom seen, I can say no greater compliment of Segal’s work than the fact that in this film he so completely becomes the character there is no doubt in the audience’s mind of the reality of the Jeff. Segal does such a good job in fact that he has revolutionised my opinion of him, and before this I was a huge fan of his, now I’m certain he’s one of the smartest young actors working today. Ed Helms does similarly fantastic work as Jeff’s brother Pat, Helms’ portrayal of Pat’s evolution throughout the movie is subtle and incredibly natural, Helms has shown on many occasions including here that he can perform comedy excellently but during his dramatic scenes in this film Helms takes his career to a complete other level. The final member of the family is Jeff and Pat’s mother Sharon who is played masterfully by the legend that is Susan Sarandon. Sarandon has delivered many show stopping performances in her varied career and she is on top form here as Sharon. Sharon at first seems like the typical mother character for a film like this as when we first see her she is arguing with Jeff on the phone, it is only when the movie continues to follow her throughout the story that the audience is shown that she is a real person who has her own hang-ups and problems, her part in the film is a great addition to that of her two sons and allows further insight into the complicated lives of this family. Sarandon makes her character so believable and relatable, much more so than I thought possible within the opening minutes of the film, the actress’s great talent is key to the transformation that Sharon undergoes in the movie much like her sons as she becomes a happier person with a deeper love for her family.

Susan Sarandon is fantastic as Jeff and Pat's mother Sharon.

One of the most important aspects in the success of this great film is its writing, here the script and plot is beautifully crafted and tells a deeply interesting story rooted in a simple day in the life of a complicated family. The profound writing and excellent direction of the film is provided by Jay and Mark DuPlass whose unique vision for this film makes it into the indie masterpiece it is. As I mentioned before this film tries to tell the audience something, it has a message. Not a cheesy message or an indulgent one but a message that speaks to the story of the film and asks the audience to appreciate what they have and if possible to be selfless sometimes for the good of others through the example of the optimistic Jeff.

Though an incredibly touching and heartfelt film, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ is not without its humour. The comedy in the film is just as great as the drama and one would not be nearly so brilliant without the other. One thing to note is that the humour in this film is much different to that of other comedies featuring Segal and Helms, rather than gratuitous vulgarity (which certainly has its place in comedy) and gross out comedy this film features a more subdued form of humour that works perfectly for this story and is performed terrifically by Helms and Segal, two veterans of comedic acting.

Jeff spies on his brother's wife at the behest of Pat.

I know it seems like I’m raving a bit too much about this film but I truly believe that ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ is a picture that upon watching will affect you and enrich you as it did me. You may not agree with me on everything but at least give this wonderful film a shot as if you have the same taste as me you’ll know that there is a lot that is special about this movie.

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