Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton
Based on the novel written by: Jonathan Tropper
Written for the screen by: Jonathan Tropper
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Metacritic Score: 44 (Mixed Reviews)
IMDB Rating: 6.6
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Ensemble domestic dramas are simple in outline: Have a bunch of characters come together for a reason (such as a death, in this case) and watch them interact with each other and hopefully, sparks will fly and characters will be deep enough for you to care about them. Some do them exceptionally well (The Big Chill), while others miss the mark entirely (August, Osage County). Most of these types of movies have their pluses and minuses and that’s where this movie This Is Where I Leave You falls into place: It’s good, but it’s not without its faults.
The Altman family comes together; Judd (Bateman), who’s still reeling from catching his wife with his boss; Wendy (Fey), who’s constantly combating with her husband; Philip (Driver), who is a man-child whose dating his shrink (Britton); and Paul (Stoll), whose having problems impregnating his wife (Hahn), for the funeral of their father. Strangely, the mother Hillary (Fonda) wants them all under one roof for seven days for them to mourn.
These types of comedy/dramas depend on the taste of the viewer whether they will enjoy it or not. Do you want it sappy and sentimental? This isn’t going to be your movie. Do you want incest, bigotry and over the top overacting? This isn’t it either (Go check out August: Osage County for that train wreck). What this movie does have is an eccentric, charming feel to it that glazes over the film while not being too deep or depressing.
There are the usual moments you get from these types of movies: meeting people from your past, inflection on one’s life, how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but going in you’ll know that right off.
What this movie does different is that its tone is middle ground, even when times get emotional, it keeps a steady beat. When things go crazy, that beat stays intact. It’s a film that keep a firm grasp of that tone for the majority of the film, then it goes off the deep end a little towards the end.
The movie really comes down to performances and whether you like the actors or not. For the most part, the movie has some solid acting. But you’re not getting something you haven’t seen before in most of the actors, so you’ll know what to expect when walking in: Good versions of these actors you’ve more than likely seen before.
There are two stand-outs in this film that elevates slightly better than most and one that is criminally underused. The best performance in the film belongs to Rose Byrne, who plays Judd’s love interest. Byrne plays a strange yet sweet character that really puts more heart into a subplot than it probably deserved to have, thanks to her very charming performance.
The other performance that should be mentioned, and should have had way more time to develop, is that of Timothy Olyphant, who plays Horri. There is one scene in this film that elicits such a reaction that the rest of the film simply can’t hold onto, which if delved further would have made the movie better. It’s a scene that shows Tina Fey’s range in a way that hasn’t been seen from this actress, but really should have been explored more.
In fact, the movie should have been longer or just been about the Judd subplot and the Wendy/Horri subplot; either way it would have made the film better.
Usually when you ask for more of a film to watch, to most it is a good sign of a good film. This is Where I Leave You is a good film; it just could have been so much more if certain plot lines were left to grow. In most ensemble movies, there are lesser plot lines that have different roles that are just a consequence of the style of the film.
Two subplots being stronger than two others in an ensemble would usually mark a movie that is padding out time or just adding filler: This Is Where I Leave You doesn’t have that problem. It just could have been more than what it was.
3/5 – Byrne is the highlight, but it’s nonetheless a solid film with a good cast.
The Wiz Says #1