Movie Review - This Is Where I Leave You

Aside from Jett Jackson: The Movie, which was a Disney channel program, this is probably the best film from director Shawn Levy. The problem is that I wish the movie wasn't so centered around Jason Bateman's character. The film is an ensemble piece for the most part, but Bateman is more the lead.

The story is about the Altman family whose patriarch dies. The mom is played by Jane Fonda who gets her four adult children to gather for a week to mourn. The patriarch was Jewish and a week of mourning is a Jewish tradition known as Shiva. It's basically a wake that lasts for days. Bateman plays Judd Altman, the middle of the three sons who arrives home without his wife and not wanting to give the real reason why.

Watching Judd work out his issues, not only with his wife but also with his late father, is the thrust of the narrative. The issues of his siblings are there and factor into it, but it's not as balanced. For example, some people were comparing this to August: Osage County, except Meryl Streep gets more time to shine than Jane Fonda. Instead of digging into her character, it's more about just showing her big breasts.

Tiny Fey (30 Rock) plays the one and only sister Wendy Altman. She gets to have a lot of scenes opposite Bateman, riffing with him, but when it comes to digging into her relationships, that's kept at a bit of a distance. She had a relationship with Horry, played by Timothy Olyphant (Justified) who has a brain injury for which she might be responsible. Yet, the potential or non-potential isn't developed as much as it could have. Sadly, Fey is also not as believable in her sad moments. Crying is simply not her strong suit, unless it's comedic crying.

Corey Stoll (House of Cards) plays the eldest sibling Paul Altman who runs the family business and who is also trying to have a baby with his wife of six years, Alice, played by Kathryn Hahn. His wife used to be Judd's girlfriend, which causes some consternation later. Yet, I don't think there was a single scene between Paul and Alice where they were alone talking about their situation.

Adam Driver (Girls) plays Phillip Altman, the youngest brother, the most immature and the biggest screw-up. However, he's currently dating a woman much older. Her name is Tracy, played by Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights). He's still very much a little boy. He wants to be an adult but yet he still pokes at his older brothers, particularly Paul.

I didn't feel the tapestry of the world of this family. The basic information I just conveyed about Judd's siblings is really all you get. There's not much more. The movie is more a romantic comedy between Bateman and Rose Byrne who is lovely and delightful. Byrne plays Penny, an old flame of Judd. Their burgeoning romance ends rather awkwardly, which is indicative of a lot of the humor here, whereas the rest of the comedy is just people constantly dropping s-bombs.

Many might come away loving Driver. I ended up loving Ben Schwartz (House of Lies) who plays the young Rabbi. He's funny here.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.


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