Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Review: "This Is Where I Leave You" (2014)

Movie"This Is Where I Leave You"
Director: Shawn Levy
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
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Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is having a really bad year. He just recently caught his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) cheating on him with his boss Wade Beaufort (Dax Shepard), and now his father Mort has passed away. His father's dying wish was for Judd and his siblings Paul (Corey Stoll), Wendy (Tina Fey), and Phillip (Adam Driver) to sit shiva together with their mother Hillary (Jane Fonda). Sitting shiva is the Jewish process of mourning someone who has passed away, which is ironic since Mort was an atheist. Begrudgingly, the family must remain in their childhood home for 7 straight days of mourning as friends, exes, lovers, and neighbors come to give their condolences. 

A quick note to start off, I did read this book and found it to be laugh out loud funny during some parts. It's a good read if you can handle a lot of cussing and misogyny.

This movie reminded BigJ and I both of "August: Osage County," but way less dramatic and with way more toilet humor. Sure, this movie did have its dramatic moments, but it'd be hard to top how depressing "Osage" was. The Altman family doesn't get along. They have long, complicated histories with one another, and it shows. The acting is what really sells this angst and anger amongst siblings and children and lovers and friends, and though some movie goers might see their quarrels as childish, every family has its problems (though we've never seen them to this extent). Some of the acting stands out, while some is just there to drive the plot along. Adam Driver was a standout performance for me. I thought he shined as Phillip, the perpetual man-child who cheats on his girlfriends and grows pot for fun, never staying in one place long enough to settle down and get his act together and grow up. He was perfect for this role and I am excited for the things that are to come for him. Tina Fey did an excellent job as Wendy, a woman whose true love was in a horrible accident leaving him brain damaged and eventually married someone else because it seemed like the right thing to do. Though she did manage to get a couple laughs in here and there, this seemed to be a bit of a different role for her. Ben Schwartz, though a minor role in the film, was also an excellent choice for the "cool" Rabbi Charles Grodner, aka Boner. The Altman kids never let Boner live down his nickname. On the flip side, Jason Bateman plays Jason Bateman as Jason Bateman has played Jason Bateman in every movie up until this present moment, though I thought it was a nice touch that it looked like he really was starting to cry during some scenes throughout the film. He did certainly fit in a family full of dysfunction, though. Corey Stoll had his role reduced quite a bit from the amount that Paul was in the book and we can't figure out why. For someone who has not read the book, BigJ found himself wanting to know more about Paul as a character than what he was given on screen.

It does have its moments of sentiment here and there, and though the majority of book and film focus on Judd and his soon to be ex wife's problems and her affair, this is the least compelling plot point in the movie. It all feels sort of rushed and eventually becomes a background note to everything else, which was both better and worse in the long run. A lot of it had to be toned down from the book version since a lot of it was overly misogynistic, plus cheesecake going where the good lord split ya. Not to compare, but I think this was done to its detriment because some of the funniest parts of the book were left on the cutting room floor for the movie. But, we digress. That's not what makes this movie just so-so. With such a wonderful cast, I expected it to be much better than it was, especially with such a compelling trailer. Something was missing, and I can't quite figure out what it was, but it lacked some sort of spark. It was fine as it was, but could have been much better.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 41%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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