This Is Where I Leave You Movie Review
Following the death of their father, a family reunites for their father’s dying wish, to stay together under their mother’s roof for a seven day mourning period known as Shiva. Despite not being Jewish, the four adult siblings comply to the request, where they reconnect by leaning on one another from their individual hardships and life troubles.
The dysfunctional family drama has been around forever in all shapes and forms. Some are more dramatic, like in the case of last year’s AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Some are a bit lighter in tone, like in the case of PARENTHOOD. And some go on to be Academy Award Best Picture winners, like in the case of ORDINARY PEOPLE and one of my favorites, AMERICAN BEAUTY. THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU will not win any awards nor deliver any profound sentiment, but it does provide some funny moments and relatable scenes that most adult families will be able to appreciate.
Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) recently caught his wife having an affair with his boss. His closest ally is his sister Wendy (Tina Fey), who has some marital issues of her own. The oldest brother, Paul (Corey Stoll), and his wife, Alice (Kathryn Hahn), are having difficulties getting pregnant. The youngest brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), is the typical spoiled goof up who’s dating his therapist (Connie Britton). They are all staying in their over-sharing mother’s (Jane Fonda) house along with her newly enlarged and visually consuming bosoms. The only one of the lot who seems to know what they’re doing is Wendy’s potty-training toddler, who carries his little bed pan around handling his business whenever and wherever possible.
Choosing a more humorous approach, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU succeeds in a variety of scenes. I admit, I have a soft spot for sibling dynamic, which is a relationship that, I believe, is never fully explored enough in Hollywood. Finding honesty and humor in real life situations, the film is at its best when the group is all together. But just as AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY was perhaps a little silly by being too overdramatic, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU had the opposite problem of becoming a little silly by being too absurd. It never quite works on an emotional level despite some strong work from the cast. Bateman proves again that he can handle just about anything and Fey does a nice job exploring a dramatic side. Even small supporting turns from Rose Byrne as a quirky new love interest for Judd and Timothy Olyphant as a damaged past love for Wendy do an admirable job.
While the actors may shine, the material comes off somewhat sophomoric. The screenplay was written by the Jonathan Tropper who also penned the book from which the material is based. Translating from page to screen is not an easy task, but the long speeches with life lesson implications feel forced and generic, while many character arcs and climactic turns become very cliché. Director Shawn Levy (DATE NIGHT, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN) never quite elevates the material, leaving many scenes relatively flat. That’s not to say the film is all bad. On the contrary, I laughed more than a few times and was genuinely interested in the characters all the way through the film. Unfortunately, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU never fully surpasses average.
Ultimately, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU will probably enforce the title quite literally by becoming a distant memory not long after your viewing. However, much to the credit of the comedically talented cast, the film provides enough sweet and humorous moments to sustain those looking for a generally nice time at the theater, but nothing much more beyond that.