Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is a producer for a radio show called “Man Up,” hosted by Wade Beaufort (Dax Shepard). One day, Judd, hoping to surprise his wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer), comes home early, only to find Wade and Quinn engaging in some extra-curricular activities.
Shortly after leaving his wife, Judd gets a call from his sister, Wendy (Tina Fey), that their father died. His last request was that the whole family sit Shiva. Wendy brings her husband and kids. His older brother, Paul (Corey Stoll) brings his wife (Kathryn Hahn). And his younger brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), the screw up, shows up with his new girlfriend (Connie Britton). The family must stay at their mother’s (Jane Fonda) for seven days. No work. No travel. Greeting neighbors as they come by to pay their respects. Rabbi Charles Grodner (Ben Schwartz) helps the family observe the Shiva. Even though their father, Jewish by birth, was an atheist.
Judd tries to keep his divorce a secret from the family. Wendy knows Judd too well and is biting her tongue to keep the secret. Of course, all the issues and sibling rivalry that accompany even adult brothers and sisters comes to the surface as the family has no choice but to spend time reconnecting. Perhaps this is what their father wanted.
I had some reservations going into This is Where I Leave You. So often, when you put together such an amazing cast as this, the filmmakers are overcompensating for a lackluster script. I was more than pleasantly surprised when This is Where I Leave You didn’t follow this pattern.
Jason Bateman is one of those actors who brings every movie he’s in up a level. Not only can he bring the comedy, but he can evoke just about every other emotion when the time is right. He and Tina Fey have such great chemistry together as brother and sister. They play well off each other. Seeing Fey in this movie actually made me respect her even more as an actress. She shows she is more than just a great comedy writer.
Jane Fonda is the grieving matriarch of the family. She is wildly inappropriate and unashamed of her surgically enhanced body. After all, her late husband loved the work she had done. And she goes into more detail than her children want to hear about just how much he enjoyed it. At the same time, she does a great job as a mother who so desperately wants her kids to be together and get along. Corey Stoll, is your typical older brother. He wants to take care of the family, as he is supposed to do, but has a hard time letting go of the past. And Adam Driver plays the younger brother naturally. He constantly disappoints the family. And regrets every time he does.
All of the personalities in the film meld together so naturally. It really was a bit of a surprise. Even Timothy Olyphant and Rose Byrne, as background characters, fit in nicely. They never go over the top with their characters, which would have been easy to do in Olyphant’s role. And they never outshine the focus of the movie. They just fill in some back stories nicely.
Writer Jonathon Tropper and director Shawn Levy do an excellent job putting the film together. You get the right mix of grieving and sadness with enough comedy to keep things on the lighter side. At no point does the comedy become slapstick or overdone, drowning out the more serious story line. But you never get bogged down with the drama. This is how you craft a dramedy.
This is Where I Leave You doesn’t seem to have received too much promotion, so it may not be on your radar, but you definitely don’t want to miss this film. It is definitely worth watching at least once.