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Monday, September 2, 2013

"Jeff Who Lives at Home", quirky feel-good fun

Jeff Who Lives at Home

Feel-good movies is not exactly a film category, but there are so many out there I'm convinced it deserves a genre entirely of its own. And the vast, immense majority of them are awful, bland and phony numbers. That's why, despite its flaws and shortcomings, one doesn't want to be very tough (there are also some personal reasons, as where and with who I was watching it)  with a movie like "Jeff Who Lives at Home". A feel-good film that is not embarrassing? Hey, these are surprisingly good news, folks.

Indeed, there's nothing to be ashamed of in "Jeff". Mark and Jay, the Duplass brothers have penned a quirky little movie, mixing comedy, an off-beat and surreal sense of humour, with some pretty serious issues, like relationships, familiar as well as sentimental, or our definition of "what's normal and reasonable"... oh, well, the meaning of life, you know. Not shy on ambition, ehm? Honestly, it had all the elements for being insufferable, but you know what? It is not. The film is really enjoyable. Although sometimes moving on a very thin red line, shifting from almost slapstick scenes to utterly dramatic moments, "Jeff"'s  awkward, nearly impossible script works, also offering a vital, positive message with charm (and without being too cheesy).

Such and odd-ball couldn't work without committed and credible actors. And in that sense Jason Segel deserves a separate mention. He carries the whole film of his shoulders. He turns Jeff, a 30 years-old slacker-loser by definition, into a fragile, sweet and collapsed adult that is going to be the major force on a series of life-changing situations for him and his family with compelling freshness. Extraordinary job. In comparison, the other main actors, Ed Helms, his brother, and Susan Sarandon, his mother, are just ok.  

Precisely, if "Jeff" fails short is on the parallel stories of Pat and Sharon, leaded by Helms and Sarandon. The first one lacks verisimilitude because the drastic personality shifts on the character, which makes him hard to believe in what regards to the dramatic side of the story, around his failing marriage with Linda (played by Judy Greer). While the second is by far the less inspired, looking somewhat forced (the shower scene is a bit gratuitous). That unbalance on the stories, and the epic, bombastic finale makes "Jeff Who Lives at Home" a flawed film. But as I said, thanks to Segel, the originality in how the story develops and its comedy side, is nevertheless a recommendable movie that can endure with the spectator. A remarkable feel-good movie.

SCORE: 6,5/10 

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