“You don’t do complicated, Judd,” says sister Wendy (Tina Fey) to her brother (played by Jason Bateman). In director Shawn Levy’s ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ four siblings come together to spend seven days in reflection over the loss of their father. The disarray that ensues drives the film, and with great humor and heart to boast. Whose family isn’t even slightly a mess, in some way, whether it’s estrangement or a crowd? The Altman’s are an example of faults and fortes when it comes to surviving as a unit. At the end of the day, the people that make us crazy are the people we realize life is harder without. Levy makes a film strong in cast and script (novel and screenplay by Jonathan Tropper) that pushes that dramedy barrier.
Grown siblings Judd, Wendy, Phillip (Adam Driver), and Paul (Corey Stoll) visit with friends and family in the house where they grew up while their mother (Jane Fonda) “grounds” them to be under one roof sitting Shiva as their father’s dying wish. Judd is reeling from his wife’s affair with his boss while Wendy is wrangling two (albeit adorable) children with a husband only concerned with his job and her ex-boyfriend (Timothy Olyphant) still living across the street since an accident years before. Paul and his wife (Kathryn Hahn) are haggard over difficulties getting pregnant while the youngest, Phillip, assumes a confident air without the responsibility, but does bring his prize psychologist girlfriend (Connie Britton) along. Judd reconnects with a blast from the past, Penny Moore (Rose Byrne), family disagreements and privacy issues pile up, and things get…complicating.
There’s a beauty to this family. Tied and connected by blood, the Altman’s fail in tact, honesty, and constructive criticism, but pieces of these relationships unfold like a real (and loud) family’s might. Whether Judd and Phillip are breaking it to Paul while smoking weed in a synagogue that he was never very fun or Wendy pestering Judd to admit the truth about his divorce to everyone or Phillip abandoning Judd at Penny’s work to nudge the romance, these siblings ultimately make their feelings known in each others’ best interests (they assume). Disappointing oneself or harboring dissatisfactions and secrets- it’s not an uncommon part of life and it takes a village to break down the walls sometimes. Funny by nature and smart on paper, ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ does not follow the predictability that it could have. As Penny puts it to Judd, “Anything could happen. Anything happens all the time.”