On the Silver Screen – This Is Where I Leave You
This is Where I Leave You is the story of four siblings who are forced to live in their childhood home for a week following the death of their father. When doing so they have to overcome their mother who speaks too candidly as well as their general inability to be in the company of each other for very long.
Dysfunctional family drama is something that people tend to be interested in because most of us have families that are prone to dysfunction in one way or another so it can produce some comedic situations that people find relatable. Unfortunately it creates the issue of having to exaggerate these situations because normal dysfunction is boring which -to me- makes them too unbelievable.
This film suffers from that problem in spades. Everywhere you look there’s a character who is obnoxiously uninteresting delivering dialogue that is criminally unfunny. I feel I have to add Jason Bateman to my “can’t watch” list because I can’t look at him playing the emotionally distant, put out character who is often being taken advantage of again. There was a clear disinterest to every scene he was in which also caused me to be really bored watching him.
None of the other characters were especially entertaining to watch with the possible exception of Tina Fey’s Wendy who managed to be the least offensive by virtue of not having much of a character story. There was one that was implied that seemed to be resolved without being set up. I suspect this was mainly due to the fact that we spent much of the film following the hijinks of Adam Driver’s irritating manchild Philip who just made me want to smack him every scene he’s in. I’m guessing his character description amounts to “the annoying one” in the script. There were moments that tried to put across some measure of depth to him but they feel so disingenuous and completely fall flat.
Jane Fonda as the family matriarch Hilary Altman is insufferable in every single one of her scenes. Her candid way of talking to each of her children comes across as wholly unrealistic and the general family dynamic is incredibly inappropriate. I found myself believing absolutely none of the interactions because they were so dialed up to be played for laughs.
I have very little to say about the rest of the cast other than they were very dull. Corey Stoll’s Paul has a subplot involving being unable to conceive a child with his wife but it comes and goes without any real progression and only exists to try and wring a cheap laugh out of the audience. Rose Byrne’s Penny is something of an alternative love interest to Jason Bateman’s Judd but they have absolutely no chemistry -though does Bateman actually have chemistry with anyone?- so are entirely unable to sell it. There are also elements of this that make Judd an incredibly unlikeable presence.
As I’ve suggested above, this film is not the least bit funny to me. The cast don’t work well together at all and the jokes feel so forced that they remove any potential for laughs through lack of sincerity. There was some potential to make this a dark comedy about a family who hate each other coming together and leaving still finding they hate each other but there was a confusing lack of coherence to the narrative here. At some points I felt like it was trying to be that sort of film but there were too many moments of forced bonding for this to be the intention. I get the impression that it was supposed to be a feel good film about loving your family despite the things that annoy you about that but there’s such a lack of sincerity that it fails to bring this across.
The pacing of this film was utterly atrocious, forcing the audience to sit through subplot after subplot -many of which go nowhere- inbetween returning to the main plot. All of these stories are entirely uninteresting and actually painful to watch in some cases. The film runs entirely too long and manages to say nothing as it progresses.
A long and boring mess of a narrative that doesn’t once manage to do anything resembling funny. The film has too many subplots that barely feed into an uninteresting story full of uninteresting and unlikeable characters. Everything is so offensively dialed up to an extreme level to try and force a laugh from the audience but nothing works here.