I have yet to embrace fully the mumblecore genre. I want to love it, having come of age as a filmmaker working on the indies of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, but perhaps that is my problem: I see mumblecore as the natural progression of so many films on which I crewed that never saw the light of day. Like any other genre, simply creating a movie and actually executing a good movie are two different things, and too often mumblecore-type pics feel like a means to an end rather than well-crafted films. Which does not mean the best of the bunch are not good, entertaining films, exactly how I felt about Jeff, Who Lives At Home (and I was not a fan of the Duplass brothers’ break-out picture, The Puffy Chair). Hit the jump for my review of the Blu-ray.
Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30-year-old slacker living in his mother’s basement, obsessed with the movie Signs as he seeks such signs for direction in his own life. He does not have great relationships with either his self-important brother Pat (Ed Helms) or his disillusioned-with-life mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon). When in the midst of an errand for his mother Jeff decides to follow a young hood—having take the name on the back of the guy’s basketball jersey as a sign—he is set on a course of somewhat chance encounters beginning with running into his brother, leading to a quest to discover whether Pat’s wife Linda (Judy Greer) is cheating, and culminating in Jeff, Sharon, Pat and Linda all reconciling.
Considering mumblecore’s naturalistic tendencies, Jeff, Who Lives At Home asks the audience to suspend an unusually high amount of disbelief in the way of coincidences. In a less naturalistic, more high-concept film, such viewer expectations are, if not the norm, common, but they work here due to the conceit that signs can exist in one’s life.
That having been said, the film hinges on Segel, who brings an earnest authenticity to the role. Indeed, Segel seems to be cornering the market on likeable—and uniquely believable—schmuck. And Ed Helms, so often cast in similar roles, is quite refreshing as the prick brought back to earth.
Exhibiting the growth of the genre from its very low-budget roots into a more widely-distributed and accepted fare, Jeff, Who Lives At Home was produced on a $10 million budget and features multiple larger set-pieces involving cars. These do not take away from the spirit of the genre, however; they work within the scope of the film. The Duplass brothers have always done a good job avoiding artificial smallness
As for this Blu-Ray disc itself…special features? Zilch. Nada. Picture and sound are serviceable but not spectacular. Pretty much your basic disc in all regards.
In all, Jeff, Who Lives At Home is an entertaining view, mumblecore for those not enamored of mumblecore.