Jeff, Who Lives at Home

30-year-old Jeff still lives with his mother. He’s a firm believer in fate as he asserts everything happens for the greater purpose. In this minor comedy, Jeff searches for his destiny one day while assisting his brother with his marital problems. Over the course of 83 minutes we’re treated to the incidental developments of his life. A significant portion concerns Jeff’s single-minded obsession with the name Kevin. Following a wrong number asking for that unknown person, he obsesses over the name so much that it leads him on a slight odyssey of sorts. But the quest is one letdown after another. Ultimately there’s an actual point to the proceedings. Thank goodness for that and the tone is sincere enough. The problem is, with the exception of the ending, all the little episodes are rather boring.

Directors Mark and Jay Duplass’ films are an acquired taste. If you can get behind the slacker milieu with its unapologetic passivity, you might cozy up to the production’s charms. Ultra low budget and championing an authenticity that favors natural performances and dialogue, there’s always been an improvisational feel in their movies. They favor individuals that occupy an awkward existence in their own life. Characters deliver their lines with the all confidence of a spokesperson with a fear of public speaking. That can be entertaining. Wes Anderson has made a career of indies that take delight in that. But where Anderson deals with the doldrums of everyday people in a way that celebrates those quirky details creatively, the Duplass brothers almost wallow in a despair that grows debilitating. It’s just so dreary. Even then, there can be entertainment in that, if not for the fact that the events are so insignificant. The routine happenings of random white, middle class American twenty-somethings would probably make a more thought provoking picture than what is presented here. When British artist Tracey Emin exhibited her unmade bed at the Tate Gallery in 1999 she was able to create a notoriety in the art world. I’m a film critic. I won’t debate the value of such pieces other than to say that Jeff, Who Lives at Home is sort of the cinematic version of art from found objects.

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6 Responses to “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”

  1. Excellent review, Mark! The second part is just superb.

  2. This had some nice moments that were mostly very good because of the talented cast but too much of this writing just felt lazy and the end just had me roll my eyes. But I still liked what The Duplass’ were trying to do here so I guess I got to give it an A for effort. Good review Mark.

  3. It was kinda boring till the end.

  4. Mark, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I thought this movie was funny. You say that “the quest is one letdown after another.” I say those letdowns are good comedic punchlines. In as much as the Duplass brothers are tying to get us to believe in this guy, they also mock him. And, I don’t think the Duplass boys wallow in despair. The whole arc with Susan Sarandon and her secret admirer is inspiring and comforting and in ways exciting. I also think while the ending gives some closure for Jeff, the real point was rescuing Jeff’s brother and his marriage, which I thought the hotel scene between those two actors was great.

    • Good points all. I just couldn’t get into the film’s rhythm. It didn’t engage me. Have you seen Year of the Dog? That was a similar type of film and vastly superior IMO.

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