By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin March 16, 2012 at 12:50AM
When micro-indie filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass spun their success with movies like The Puffy Chair into an opportunity to work with full-scale crews and name actors, there were doubts that they could maintain their spontaneous approach and indie credibility. Cyrus dispelled those feelings, and Jeff, Who Lives at Home confirms their ability to make pictures that don’t look or sound like anyone else’s.
If you’re at all intrigued by their latest effort, I would urge you not to watch the trailer or read anything about it. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is so delicate—like a well-constructed house of cards—that even a breeze could blow it over. In other words, I think you should discover it for yourself and allow it to win you over, as it did me.
I will reveal this much: Jason Segel plays the title character, a 30-year-old who still lives at home in a kind of permanent stupor, waiting—no, longing—for his destiny to reveal itself. His brother (Ed Helms) is only marginally more successful at navigating real life, as his marriage (to Judy Greer) is holding on by a thread. Meanwhile, their despairing, widowed mother (Susan Sarandon) has resigned herself to living out a humdrum existence while working in a nondescript office in their hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Fate, if that’s what you choose to call it, has something in store for each of these characters, and the threads come together in the most unexpected—and satisfying—way. If the same story points were carried out with a heavier hand, this film would be booed off the screen as an absurdity; in the hands of the Duplasses, its quiet, quirky charms transform it into a disarming modern-day fable.
Anyone who wanders into a theater this weekend expecting another Hangover or Forgetting Sarah Marshall is in for a possibly unhappy surprise. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a low-key, often bittersweet film that only marginally qualifies as a comedy...yet its good-hearted conclusion left me with a smile on my face.
Incidentally, the Duplasses have a new film at South by Southwest that will be in theaters in just a few months. I can hardly wait to see it.