Does everything happen for a reason? Jeff’s mantra, while less clear-cut in reality, shows that coincidence or not, sometimes going with the flow makes for a better movie than the cliched nonsense that is fed to us on a weekly basis.
Jeff, a reclusive stoner living in his mother’s basement, finds himself following an existential bread-crumb trail while on a trip to buy wood glue. Along his journey, he encounters his brother who isn’t ashamed of his limited financial success, his only problem is his wife and her reaction to his impulse purchase of a luxury car. Together, they attempt to solve their problems while their mother, attempts to identify her secret admirer that happens to work in the same office.
Jeff Who Lives at Home is an quirky film that sensitively portrays a family that is trapped in a life of stagnation with the titular character as the catalyst for the open mind. The writing by far is what keeps this little art house gem fresh, sadly the cinematography sucks – yes, it’s that simple. The film uses the approach of a single hand-held camera to capture the narrative but the director of photography must have been a little high himself to be using a consistent barrage of cheesy zooms that are simply overused and completely unnecessary…I mean, what were hey thinking?
Thankfully in the grand scheme of the film, the irritation of the camera doesn’t detract from the story and acting – both of which are very strong. Jason Segel, well known for his comedic chops gets a dramatic workout and while he still brings the essence of his deadpan foundations to the table, his performance is coated with kooky charm and poignancy; a welcome change to gauge the versatility of this actor whose presence has accelerated to astronomical popularity over the past few years. This isn’t to say that he overwhelms the supporting cast; as is the concept of the film, he’s just a cog in the story as is everyone else.
As previously mentioned, Jeff Who Lives at Home follows the basic principle that coincidence is an illusion for destiny, and this echoes true throughout the film and is wrapped up neatly in the films finale, which is satisfying and makes the task of sitting through the film incredibly rewarding. I’m not entirely familiar with the work of the Duplass brothers, but judging from Jeff, I can tell that there is a definite style to the movie which begs me to question why I haven’t heard of them before now.
Judging by the hopelessly limited release, theatre chains don’t have much hope for this, so if you like art house and stay in Cape Town or Durban, you’ll be lucky enough to have this movie as an option.
The Bottom Line
Despite the frustrating camera work, Jeff Who Lives at Home is an insightful and frequently humorous look into the lives of the lost that just need a push in the right direction. Its combination of sensitive storytelling and touching performances make this underrated art house film one that will be largely ignored, but it really shouldn’t.