Jason Segel plays another slacker stoner in quirky Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Duplass brothers new comedy has trouble convincing itself
By Coach Courtney's standard, the title character of the indie comedy Jeff, Who Lives at Home doesn't handle failure very well. Nearly 30 years old, Jeff (The Muppets' Jason Segel) lives in his Mom's basement, smokes pot all day and fails to follow through with minor responsibilities. Jeff finds a chance to turn his life around in a strange little film that mixes mismatched-buddy slapstick with squishy spiritualism.
In the introductory scene, Jeff describes the profound emotions he feels whenever he sees a derided M. Night Shyamalan movie. Writers/directors Jay and Mark Duplass present the highly emotional Jeff in uncomfortable close-up, as if we're stuck talking to a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. On his mother's birthday, Jeff answers a wrong number and becomes convinced that the universe is sending him a sign through the name "Kevin."
Jeff is a diametric opposite in his brother Pat (Ed Helms), a shortsighted, self-absorbed salesman who buys a Porsche despite the objections of his wife (Judy Greer) and throws their already-teetering marriage in jeopardy. Helms' take on Pat's testy cluelessness harks back to the angry Andy Bernard of "The Office's" third season. Over the course of a day in Baton Rouge, Jeff and Pat keep serendipitously running into each other, and their incompatible personalities clash every time. The audience, like Pat, might think Jeff's a deluded nut, but the film increasingly treats him as a holy fool like Forrest Gump.
Like their previous comedy, last year's Cyrus, the Duplass brothers begin with the actors and trappings of a more conventional Hollywood comedy that evolves into a looser, less formulaic story. The actors clearly appreciate the Duplass' emphasis on character over jokes, but Jeff, Who Lives at Home builds to epiphanies that the filmmakers don't really seem to believe. With its modest laughs and warm fuzzies, Jeff, Who Lives at Home proves to be the kind of film best watched at home on DVD or On Demand.