‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’ is a rare gem

Jason Segel and Ed Helms co-star in 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home'
Jason Segel and Ed Helms co-star in ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’

This is the first film by the Durplass brothers that I’ve seen, something I intend to rectify quickly after watching Jeff, Who Lives at Home.   It is a wonderful film, coming oh so close to the magic that generates a four popcorn rating.

Starring Jason Segel as the titular “Jeff,” who currently resides in the basement of his mother (Susan Sarandon as “Sharon”), and Ed Helms as “Pat,” his somewhat happily married brother, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a film set on Sharon’s birthday.

She’s not asking for a whole lot either, in the way of gifts.  She’d be satisfied if Jeff, who spends his days smoking pot, thinking while sitting on another pot, and otherwise pondering the major questions of life, would get up off his posterior, go out and buy some glue and then fix the broken shutter.  She even left a note instructing Jeff on what to do, along with money to get the glue and him to and from the store.

Jeff, who is a major fan of the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs is looking everywhere in life for signs and one comes in the form of a wrong number phone call.  Jeff, who appears to firmly believe there are no wrong numbers, is sent on an interesting quest by one word from that call, but the quest doesn’t go well.  But as a result of his quest, he runs into his brother Pat, standing outside the local Hooters.

Pat had been at lunch with a colleague, after having a bad morning at home.  Seems Pat wasn’t listening too well to his wife “Linda” (Judy Greer) when she mentioned they needed to watch their spending so they can finally get into a house.  So when Pat surprises Linda with the news that the new Porsche in the driveway is ’theirs’, she’s less than pleased.

Jeff and Pat go on an adventure together after their chance meeting outside Hooters, when Jeff spies Linda with a strange man.  The brothers attempt to track down just where the wife and her ’friend’ are going, since Pat leaps to the conclusion that they are having an affair.  Jeff breaks away from the search at one point, following that wrong number quest again, but fortune brings the brothers together when they spot Linda’s car parked at a hotel.

Meanwhile, Mom is at work and it’s been a crazy day for her as well.  First, a paper airplane is flown across the office and landing on her desk.  When Sharon opens the airplane, there is an intricate drawing of a flower.  Soon, an anonymous Instant Message appears on her screen, and she’s introduced to her secret admirer, at least on-screen.  She wants very much to know if she’s merely the butt of a joke, or if there really is someone at work who admires her.  Her husband and the father of the two men has been dead for sometime and to say that Sharon has had a dry spell relationship wise is to seriously understate things.

Linda isn’t having an affair, as Pat suspected, but her male friend was more than willing to listen to her complaints about the unfulfilling existence she’s currently experiencing, something Pat wasn’t prior to that point.  She points out that since they don’t jointly own anything and have never had children, it should be no problem for them to go their seperate ways.  She announces her intent to do just that, letting Pat know she’s going to be staying at her own mother’s home for the foreseeable future.

Now, what happens here, to Jeff, to Pat, to Linda and to Sharon, is what makes this film worth seeing.  What we’ve seen up to now is interesting, informative and entertaining.  But the best moments, those that speak of the reality of human existence and the things that make life interesting and worth living are mostly found in what’s next.  What’s next after Sharon first learns who her secret admirer is.  What’s next after Jeff finds he was right to look for the signs.  What Pat discovers after he stops wanting and starts listening.

Filmed mostly in the brother director’s home area of New Orleans, Jeff, Who Lives at Home covers a short period in terms of time, but reflects on the entirety of living, rather than merely existing.

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