Director Shawn Levy is mostly known for family films (“Night at the Museum,” “Cheaper by the Dozen”), but he has broadened his scope in the last few years with more light-hearted though adult stories (“Date Night,” “The Internship”). Though his subjects are often silly and rather immature, he knows how to entertain. His most serious film to date, “This Is Where I Leave You” balances between serious consideration of love and family and comedic dysfunction. Ten times better than the book by Jonathan Tropper, though he wrote the screenplay, “This Is Where I Leave You” succeeds in being the kind of comic drama for the masses, not too in-depth but a slightly realistic look at family and flawed romantic legacy.
Only weeks after catching his wife (Abigail Spencer) cheating on him with his boss (Dax Shepard), Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is notified of his father’s death. His mother (Jane Fonda), a famed psychologist, notifies him and his siblings that they must follow Jewish tradition and sit Shiva, or mourn for seven days at their family home while greeting guests. Each family member struggles with relationships; Judd welcomes a flirtation with his school friend Penny (Rose Byrne), oldest brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn) have trouble conceiving, Wendy (Tina Fey) raises her children and longs for her old relationship with brain-damaged neighbor Horry (Timothy Olyphant) while her businessman husband (Aaron Lazar) ignores them, and immature, youngest Phillip (Adam Driver) dates an older woman (Connie Britton) reminiscent of his mother. As the week progresses, the family learns of each other’s problems and occasionally helps each other deal with them.
The novel focuses on Judd as the main character, but, thankfully, this adaptation chose to offer a more balanced representation of the siblings, making it easier to connect. By paring down the emphasis on Judd, the film is able to maintain a more jovial presentation without the hindrance of Judd’s extreme objectification of women and horny thoughts. Some of the more extreme moments and details from the book, such as Paul’s scars, are cut or altered which leads to a more realistic and casual storytelling. The trimming combined with natural comedy from Bateman, Fey, and Driver transform “This Is Where I Leave You” into cute fun.
Like last year’s “August: Osage County” without the meanness, “This Is Where I Leave You” examines a family’s difficulties with love, despite the mother’s knowledge and fame in psychology. Each member equates sex with love, a similarity that none seem to pick up on. The all-star actors are mostly perfectly cast, especially Bateman, Driver, Fonda, and Hahn, though Fey struggles with the deep emotion (forgivable due to her comedic genius, second only to scene-stealer Driver). Their characters’ various stories may not be remarkable, but the connected dysfunction makes the film a weird kind of feel-good film.
Rating for “This Is Where I Leave You:” B-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“This Is Where I Leave You” is playing at most theatres in Columbus, including AMC Lennox and Arena Grand. For showtimes, click here.