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Jeff, Who Lives at Home Blu-ray Review

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012) movie poster Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Theatrical Release: March 16, 2012 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: R

Writers/Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass / Songs List

Cast: Jason Segel (Jeff Thompkins), Ed Helms (Pat Thompkins), Susan Sarandon (Sharon Thompkins), Judy Greer (Linda), Rae Dawn Chong (Carol), Steve Zissis (Steve), Evan Ross (Kevin), Benjamin Bickham (TV Pitchman), Lee Nguyen (Clerk), Katie Aselton (Hostess), J.D. Evermore (Waiter)

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Like Disney, Paramount has all but gotten out of the independent film business to focus their efforts on a small number of big budget movies. But whereas Disney sold off Miramax Films after scaling it back to almost nothing, the Paramount Vantage banner remains in rare use on modest films with limited commercial prospects. Paramount recently invoked the specialty division for just the second time in the past eighteen months.

This latest release was Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a film written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, the biggest filmmakers to emerge from the Mumblecore movement. The siblings' first quasi-mainstream feature, Cyrus (2010) starring John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill, was acclaimed and at least close to profitable. Thus, the Duplasses were able to secure a $10 million budget to make another indie dramedy as they saw fit.

Brothers Jeff (Jason Segel) and Pat (Ed Helms) go on an unusual adventure in "Jeff, Who Lives at Home."

Jason Segel holds the title role, playing a 30-year-old stoner/slacker who indeed lives in the basement of his mother's house.
Jeff is a big believer in signs, both as in indications of destiny and as in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. The film opens with what first appears to be a philosophical statement; an onscreen quote expands line by line, becoming a little more dubious with each addition and then getting attributed to simply "Jeff." He is shown to be recording his thoughts on Shyamalan's alien invasion movie on what is revealed to be a toilet in use.

The Duplass Brothers are not, as you might suspect, having a laugh at Shyamalan's expense, as tempting as that becomes with his ongoing artistic descent. Instead, they are defining the film's protagonist, a lonely man at a crossroads who post-bong-hit finds meaning in an infomercial and a phone call to the wrong number. Then, Jeff's mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) calls him from work to remind him of the one task she'd like from him to make her birthday special: a piece of a pantry door has broken and Jeff is to go to the store to buy some wood glue to fix it.

That sounds simple enough, but Jeff has to take a bus to get there. On it, he is distracted by a commuter in a basketball jersey bearing the name Kevin, the same name that the errant dialer asked for earlier. Believing there to be some cosmic significance to this coincidence, Jeff follows the young man to a basketball court, where he joins in a pickup game.

Later, circumstances lead Jeff to walk past the very Hooters restaurant where his older brother Pat (Ed Helms), a goateed paint salesman, is conducting business. There is some animosity between the siblings and it doesn't ease up after Pat crashes his brand new Porsche into a tree. Happenstance sets the two brothers on a mission to spy on Pat's wife Linda (Judy Greer), who they spot with an unknown man. Convinced that she is cheating on him, Pat sends Jeff to reconnoiter at a neighboring bistro booth. Their suspicions seem further confirmed when the expedition proceeds to a hotel.

While the brothers are butting heads and making discoveries, their long-widowed mother is getting some mysterious, flirtatious, anonymous instant messages from someone at her workplace.

Sharon Thompkins (Susan Sarandon) is intrigued by flirtatious instant messages from a secret admirer. After having been cheated on in "The Descendants", Judy Greer turns the tables here, by being potentially unfaithful to her husband.

Jeff is an earnest and highly appealing film. The Duplasses clearly believe in the entertainment value of ordinary human interaction and this film proves their faith is well-placed. There isn't a scene that rings untrue, even as the film unfolds with a series of improbable coincidences. It is set in Baton Rouge, a city you are probably unfamiliar with and yet one that resembles any number of mid-sized American cities you've likely encountered. The design of a single average yet extraordinary day, unfolding so naturally and matter-of-factly, recalls Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Like that 1993 film, this one sustains an air of familiarity, producing moments you recognize but rarely stop to appreciate.

By presenting those moments in a palatable 80-minute narrative, this film encourages you to celebrate strange, mundane experiences. The scenarios are funny while always shedding light on characters and their world views. The easy, lazy choice would have been to make the unemployed homebody the punchline and disturbance to his grown-up brother. And yet we see that Pat is far more immature and troubled than the brother he likes to ridicule. The screenplay puts forth moments of profundity without being pretentious.
It is substantial even though many narrow-minded viewers will surely dismiss it as a movie "where nothing happens." The film's winning tone is threatened in a climax where things seem very much in doubt. Thankfully, it recovers, and restores order with a well-earned, feel-good finale in which somehow both nothing and everything have changed since the morning.

It is a shame that movies like this must remain in obscurity while dumber, broader, less original ones get seen by the masses. At the same time, I'd be foolish not to think that some of you reading will question or doubt my recommendation, either now or after having seen the movie. There is something about the film sure to rub some viewers the wrong way, be it flawed characters deemed insufficiently likeable, developments declared far-fetched, the frequent use of profanity, or the Duplasses' aesthetic of ever-shaky handheld camera work with random zooms in and out. Those off-putting characteristics only make Jeff all the more potent for the few who will manage to both see and appreciate this easily overlooked treat.

Watch a scene from Jeff, Who Lives at Home:

Jeff, Who Lives at Home Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English DVS)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $40.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

On Blu-ray, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is treated to first-rate picture and sound. The higher budget moves the Duplasses up the professional scale, rendering this their most polished-looking work yet. The 1.78:1 picture is full of detail and the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio offers more atmosphere than you would expect of the genre, as well as a few prominent needle drops.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Surprisingly, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is not joined by a single bonus feature on Blu-ray, other than access to an UltraViolet stream. While the allure of extras has somewhat worn off for me after thirteen years of heavy viewing, it's still unfortunate that Paramount couldn't at least have included the movie's promising theatrical trailer.

The static, silent menu simply offers a wide, washed-out reformatting of the poster/cover art. The disc supports bookmarks, but doesn't resume playback. Even trailers for other Paramount movies are excluded here.

An insert supplies your UltraViolet code and directions, while its back promotes a random collection of fairly recent Paramount Blu-rays.

Pat (Ed Helms) and Jeff (Jason Segel) spy on Pat's wife, eating lunch at a bistro in the company of an unknown man. Jeff (Jason Segel) enjoys a satisfying Pop Tart at the end of his big day out.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Jeff, Who Lives at Home will absolutely not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found this funny, smart, and heartfelt little film plenty rewarding and anyone who liked Cyrus or appreciates indie cinema will probably enjoy this too.

The complete void of bonus features is bizarre and unfortunate, but at least the Blu-ray presents the film with high quality picture and sound. Whether you decide to take advantage of steep preorder discounts, rent it now, or wait for a price drop to buy it, Jeff deserves your attention.

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by the Duplass Brothers: Cyrus | Jason Segel: I Love You, Man The Muppets Bad Teacher Knocked Up
Ed Helms: Cedar Rapids The Hangover The Hangover Part II | Judy Greer: The Descendants Maneater The TV Set Marmaduke
Susan Sarandon: Middle of Nowhere Solitary Man Enchanted In the Valley of Elah Speed Racer Who Do You Think You Are?: Season 1
Our Idiot Brother Greenberg Young Adult Terri Margot at the Wedding Juno Extract Crazy, Stupid, Love. The Kids Are All Right
Paramount Vantage: Like Crazy Middle Men | New: Workaholics: Seasons 1 & 2 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Shallow Grave,

Jeff, Who Lives at Home Songs List: Robert Walker - "The Most Incredible Vitamin in the World", The Respectables - "Chemically Changed", Spin Doctors - "Two Princes", Beck - "Looking for a Sign", The Acorn - "Dents"

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Reviewed June 14, 2012.



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