<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Abigail Spencer, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Debra Monk, Ben Schwartz, Dax Shepard
An oddly forgettable film title with a good cast of comic actors that fail at comedy but do pretty well at drama.
I struggled trying to remember this film’s name. In fact, when I typed it into Google just now I wrote out ‘This Is What We Leave Behind’. And then I had to go searching for the name of the film I just watched this morning!
So Jason Bateman is all over the place right now. Just saw him in Horrible Bosses 2 and in a film called Bad Words on DVD (you must watch it). In This Is Where I Leave You he plays Judd Altman, one of four siblings of a not so orthodox Jewish family. He works at a radio station and stumbles on his boss having sex with his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer). A few days later he learns that his father has died. Not a good week for him.
So off he goes to his old town, reuniting with his serious older brother Paul (Corey Stoll), his younger brother Phillip (Adam Driver) and sister Wendy (Tina Fey) as well as his mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) who comforts them all on her newly augmented breasts. She insists – as per their late father’s dying wish – that they all sit ‘shiva’ – Jewish seven days of mourning – in the same house. And as you can imagine with dysfunctional families cooped up under one roof, all hell breaks loose between siblings, their respective partners and new as well as old love interests.
Going into the film you expect to laugh a lot considering there’s Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver and Jason Bateman in it but the jokes pretty much fall flat, at least in the first half. And even the chemistry between them all as a family isn’t palpable. They just don’t look like they’re from the same bloodline. And the writer has written the characters to fit particular categories: Phillip is the brash playboy young one, Paul is the serious and brooding one, Jason is the guy who never took a risk, Wendy is the one who gets her brothers to be honest about their feelings. But in spite of these clichés the actors manage to bring something unique to their parts.
But when you break the family up in to pairs that fight/console/scandalise/torment each other, that’s when the performances and emotions really shine through. Rather than a laugh, you’ll have a tear in your eye.
“Is it just our family or is it the whole world?” Judd asks his sister Wendy when they’re sitting on the roof of their family home discussing their failed marriages and the fact that they too have ended up cheating. It’s a telling comment on the state of relationships nowadays. And the answer to Judd is probably a big yes, it’s the whole world!
Adam Driver as the reckless but somehow wise for his age younger brother balances the more serious players in the film. Rose Byrne as Judd’s old sweetheart is a bit conveniently placed in there but hey, the film doesn’t get too much of the Jewish stuff right nor does it particularly handle all the storylines perfectly due to the number of characters.
This Is… see I’ve forgotten the name of the film again…
This Is Where I Leave You is about people leaving people but also about people leaving behind their old notions of what they should be or what they are and moving on to newer things. It’s about realising that a marriage contract sometimes needs to be renegotiated and perhaps even bent at times. There is no happy ending anymore. In fact Judd’s love story ends pretty much like Saif Ali Khan’s Happy Ending where there’s no riding off into the sunset together with a ‘happily married’ sign on the back of a car.