Sunday, October 5, 2014


Written by Jonathan Tropper

Directed by Shawn Levy

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. September 22, 2014 5:40PM

"This Is Where I Leave You" is a dysfunctional family comedy with dramatic elements. The film is very funny, in fact, hysterically at times. However, whenever any melodramatic moment creep in, it simply distracts, throwing things out of whack. The broad humor makes it very hard to take any of this clan's problems and anxieties seriously.

Shawn Levy, who helmed the "Night At The Museum" franchise and the low-brow remakes of "Cheaper By The Dozen" and "The Pink Panther", has no clue on how to find the right balance. He has taken the dark themes of the story, based on the book by Jonathan Tropper (who also had a hand on the screenplay) smoothed out the sharp edges with a breezy, sitcomy sense of humor. Appealing TV comedy vets, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and "Girls" quirky heartthrob, Adam Driver are also on hand to make all these complex situations go down easy.

Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda), a noted psychologist has assembled her adult children to return home to upstate New York after their father has died. Her son, Judd (Bateman) who works for a shock-jock (Dax Shepard) is struggling to hold himself together after he has caught his wife (Abigail Spencer) cheating with someone he knows quite well. Wendy (Fey), saddled with a workaholic husband and two hyper children, is still haunted by the neighbor boy (Timothy Olyphant) she loved as a teen but left after he became injured in an accident. The no-nonsense Paul (Corey Stoll) has to deal with his anxious wife (Kathyrn Hahn) desperate to get pregnant while also bitter that he stuck around to work with their father in the family business of sporting goods. Phillip (Driver), the wild-child, baby brother, arrives to the service with his latest girlfriend in tow; an older woman (Connie Britton) who also happens to be his former shrink.

Hillary informs her children that their non-practicing Jewish father's dying wish was that they sit shiva in his honor. Reluctantly, the brood agree to remain in their childhood home for seven days to mourn. This situation manages to stir up plenty of old grudges and petty bickering among the siblings. Some of their hostility is directed at their unfiltered mother who became a best-selling author on child-rearing which used her own as prime examples. Sharing their private adolescent challenges to the world still doesn't exactly sit well with them.

Each member of the Altman family struggle to work through their complicated issues within themselves and with each other but none of these characters are fleshed out nearly enough to offer a convincing resolution. This isn't for a lack of trying from the film's highly distinguished cast of actors which includes stage actress, Debra Monk as Hillary's close neighborhood friend and Rose Byrne as Judd's chatty high school crush.

While the heavy family dynamic in the really scary, dark comedy, "August: Osage County" was unbearable, "This is Where I Leave You" is unbelievable. You won't buy for one second that any of these people could possibly be related. That doesn't mean you won't have a good time and quite a few laughs. The real issue is that the film is trying much too hard to be something it's not. Which is any type of drama. Embrace the comedy and move on.