Movie handles life’s difficulties with humor & family.
In this family comedy-drama, Jason Bateman (from TV’s “Arrested Development) plays Judd Altman, a guy who sees his life seemingly fall apart right before his eyes—and ours. With the unexpected death of his father, Judd must head to his parents’ home in the New York suburbs to rally his mother (two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda) and siblings, led by strong-willed sister Wendy (aptly portrayed by Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Tina Fey).
Unfortunately, his father’s death is only the beginning of several difficulties about to face Judd, as one serious life-changing moment strikes after another. It’s from these unfortunate circumstances that viewers will find entertainment value—similar to how motorists rubberneck a traffic accident, passing the victim off to the side of the road and eyes fixed upon the how and why.
Judd’s difficult life becomes even more complicated as the family mourns together during a “sitting Shiva” ritual, a week-long Jewish custom in which the family receives visitors to the house following the father’s burial. Under the same roof for seven days, the movie’s storyline expands to include the extended family members, all carrying their own personal problems for everyone to comment upon and capitalize for laughs.
Director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum” collection) deserves credit for nicely balancing a rather large ensemble cast around Bateman’s Judd, while keeping all the focus and family dynamics squarely on the son and brother whose life is being turned upside down. Levy strides for and succeeds at making the film part funny and part serious, skillfully combining our vulnerable human nature with our resiliency to bounce back from adversity. The fact we can laugh at, and find entertainment in, Judd Altman’s life is proof that our problems pale in comparison to his. It’s also indicative of how useful humor is in coping with life’s hurdles. Although the film is far from a slapstick comedy, it does provide enough smiles throughout to earn an above-average grade.
“This Is Where I Leave You” achieves laughs and entertainment from others’ misfortunes, due mostly to a strong, supportive family with funny and endearing characters. Director Shawn Levy smartly makes no attempt to correct or solve every problem for Judd or the other family members by the film’s end. This allows the audience to reconcile their own conclusions to the story. A diverse cast manages to stand apart at times, and yet, come together at other moments to shine bright. Judd Altman faces personal, professional and family adversity with humor and resolve. Together they make this movie more believable along the way and watchable in the end.
“This Is Where I Leave You” is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 43 minutes.
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