The Austin Chronicle

This Is Where I Leave You

Rated R, 103 min. Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 19, 2014

When mulling the merits of a romantic prospect, “he has a really good personality” usually spells death. Here, it’s a saving grace. This Is Where I Leave You is a different kind of movie from Shawn Levy (director of the Night at the Museum series). Although Levy takes a real swing here at making a movie for grownups, This Is Where I Leave You is faintly preposterous with its network-TV notion of a dysfunctional family – and nobody, not nobody, in real life talks about their feelings this much outside of a therapist’s couch. But when you put this many funny, empathetic actors in one room, a middlebrow entertainment is bound to get hitched up at the waist. This I Where I Leave You is not a great movie, but it is an awfully likable one.

Screenwriter Jonathan Tropper adapts his comic novel about an estranged family forced to reconnect when they sit shiva for their late father. Jane Fonda – flexing her legendarily taut body for steady laughs – plays the matriarch, a self-help-book author who mined her children for material, to their everlasting resentment. Jason Bateman is middle son Judd (and the ensemble film’s nominal lead), a straight-and-narrow guy whose career and marriage have hit a roadblock, while his siblings (Stoll, Fey, and Driver) all struggle with their own disappointments.

Tropper trims some subplots from the book and overstates the more nuanced stuff. Perhaps fearing the audience wouldn’t connect the dots of Judd’s emotional distress, Tropper practically chunks Judd’s journey through a GPS (this is where his sister explains his hang-ups to him; this is where he mentions a secret aspiration that will inform the final shot; this is where the music swells). Subtle it ain’t, but there’s an undercurrent of palpable rage that pokes through the (very funny) banter-banter gloss of the thing, and the actors rip into it with relish.

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