This is Where I Leave You (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Running time 104 minutes
Not for children.
One of the best clues to determine whether or not a movie stinks is to
look at the trailer. If it shows all the best punchlines, you can
generally rely on the fact that it’s a bomb.
The trailer for this film shows all the good punchlines, so I entered
the screening with trepidation. To my great surprise, this is
entertaining despite the ill-advised trailer.
Director Shawn Levy has
made an irreverent, moving comedy out of Jonathan Tropper’s best-selling
novel of the same name. He shows surprising depth as a director, depth
one would not expect from the man responsible for the disappointing
Night at the Museum fluff.
With an outstanding cast
including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda, Hilary Altman (Fonda)
calls her four children back to the family home to “sit Shiva” because
that was what their Jewish father wanted, even though Hilary is not
Judd Altman (Bateman) is enduring a terrible crisis in his marriage when
called. Arriving home he meets his sister, Wendy (Fey), and two
brothers, Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll), all of whom have
crises of one sort or another in their lives.
Tropper’s script is acute and sensitive, but it retains its humor
throughout. Key to the success of the movie is Bateman’s performance as
someone going through emotional hell, being pulled in all directions. He
hits it dead on, not an easy task because it is a complicated role.
Although the movie is only a little over an hour and a half in length,
we get to know all the characters extremely well. Supporting the stars
are fine performances by Dax Shepard as Judd’s unlikeable boss, radio
talk show star Wade Beaufort, Ben Schwartz as Rabbi Grodner, who’s
trying to shake his childhood nickname, “Boner,” Rose Byrne as Penny who
has been carrying a torch for Judd for years, Kathryn Hahn as Annie,
Paul’s wife who wants desperately to get pregnant, and Timothy Olyphant
as Wendy’s sweet youthful love.
This film has so many facets to it, so many characters, all with their
own set of problems, that the fact that Tropper and Levy have made it
into such a cohesive, entertaining movie is an admirable feat.