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Saturday, September 20, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You 2014 * 1/2 Stars

This Is Where I Leave YouDirector: Shawn Levy
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda

In my thirty-plus years of watching movies, I have rarely walked out of one. In fact, the only time happened during 1991's Another You. It was a completely misguided Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder exercise that was simply unwatchable. Plus, I forgot that I had to be somewhere else. Anyway, This Is Where I Leave You really tempted me to do what I did over two decades ago. Granted, this is one incoherent mess that felt like it was going to explode. Let me explain.

This Is Where I Leave You is like a comedic version of The Big Chill (without a point or purpose) or a poor man's version of August: Osage County (without the stellar acting). It has characters that are despicable, hypocritical, wishy-washy, and to a fault, underdeveloped. Everyone who walks into frame is someone you wanna throw popcorn at, yell at, or slap (hypothetically speaking of course). The only likable actor that existed was the lead, Jason Bateman. Too bad the rest of the proceedings around him were the movie equivalent of a garbage pale.

Filmed in a residential area of New York City, based on a novel (the novelist is also the screenwriter), and focused on a main character who is frowned upon or held in the lowest esteem, This Is Where I Leave You chronicles the funeral of a doting father who's identity is never totally revealed. His immediate family members and their respective friends/spouses, gather for 7 days of grieving (if you can honestly call it that) in the form of a Jewish ritual called Shiva (a week-long mourning period in Judaism for 1st degree relatives). These relatives that are front and center, consist of Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), Wendy Altman (Tina Fey), Phillip Altman (Adam Driver), Paul Altman (Corey Stoll), and Hillary Altman (the chest-enhanced mother played by Jane Fonda). In general, Jason Bateman's Judd is the film's main oddity. His wife cheated on him, he has no job, and he's about to be a dad even though he's getting a divorce. His character's nasty misfortune is for some reason, this 2014 release's main metaphor. He's the most likable pawn in this family's sorry game. His respective relatives perpetuate him to feel miserable and by that token, they are one messed up bunch of annoying a-holes.

Now as I observed, the family in this film is not dysfunctional but they are a bunch of people that I would wholeheartedly avoid. They obviously don't respect each other, they obviously could care less about their father/husband who died, and they don't mind airing each other's dirty laundry as a form of harassed embarrassment. And I know that actors don't exactly look alike, but at least the casting director could have found 1 or 2 people that resembled the mother played by Jane Fonda. I mean Bateman looks like he could be Fonda's son in real life. As for everybody else, they look adopted, literally.

So OK, you can tell that I've used this vehicle as a forum to vent. I've made some notable observations. Note to Jason Bateman's character: it's not cool anymore to hang out on the roof of your parent's house. And in broad daylight it just seems frat party-induced and creepy. Note to Tina Fey: you are not a dramatic actress. You think you are likable and relevant in movies but you're not. Stick to writing and the SNL stuff. Your acting is the equivalent of Lee Press On Nails running ramped on a chalkboard. Note to director Shawn Levy: a bunch of individual scenes that barely add up to parts of a whole, don't qualify as an actual movie. Look at your previous work (2013's harmless, effective The Internship) and you'll see what I mean.

In retrospect, if you like monotonous and tedious sequences where characters bicker, yell, and fight with each other (as the script requires) then this is the movie for you. If you like scenes where out of nowhere, these same characters are giving each other bad advice that is edited in the most inconsistent way possible, then this is the film for you. And if you think that the sight of a toddler randomly pooping in broad daylight (in the backyard) is funny, then this is the film for you. Bottom line: This Is Where I Leave You equals the notion, "this is where I should have left the theater," a half hour into it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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