This Is Where I Leave You
dir Shawn Levy
scr Jonathan Tropper
prd Jeff Levine, Shawn Levy, Paula Weinstein
with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Abigail Spencer, Debra Monk
release US 19.Sep.14, UK 24.Oct.14
14/US Warner 1h43
This Is Where I Leave You
Family secrets: Fey and Bateman

fonda driver byrne
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
This Is Where I Leave You For a film that trumpets a message about how messy and complicated relationships are, this is so over-plotted that it never feels even vaguely authentic. There are moments in which the actors are able to touch on real emotions, but director Levy flattens everything, straining for slapstick silliness then undercutting it with warm sentiment.

After catching his wife and boss(Spencer and Shepard) in bed, Judd (Bateman) is further stunned when his father dies. His mother (Fonda) also calls Judd's siblings home home: frazzled mom Wendy (Fey), wannabe dad Paul (Stoll) and hapless goofball Phillip (Driver). Each arrives with their own relationship issues, and while they've never been very open to talking about these things (except for their over-sharing mother), they slowly begin to help each other move forward. This includes reconnecting with old flames (Byrne and Olyphant) and clarifying things with current ones (Hahn and Britton).

There are a lot of rather enormous issues swirling around, but none of them is dealt with in any depth. Each is used for comedy value, including the funeral and grieving process, as old rivalries and loyalties rear up to create wacky mayhem. Although most of the comedy set-pieces elicit laughter, none makes any sense in the context of these characters or situations. People brawl, insult and tease each other, sometimes realistically, but mostly at random.

The actors are entertaining. Fonda has the most fun sending up a woman of a certain age who has made a living by being unapologetic about pretty much everything. Bateman, Fey, Driver and Stoll are relatively believable as siblings, nicely playing the lingering issues between them. Everyone else hovers around the film's margins filling whatever plot purpose is required, which means that none of the emotional points resonate at all: there simply isn't enough to any of the romantic relationships.

But Levy's real error is to lace everything with warm fuzziness, including a couple of shamelessly sappy scenes near the end. From the start, everything about this film feels compromised. It badly needs just a hint of jagged unpredictability or edgy anarchy, but it's merely pretending to be outrageous. Visual sight gags are half-hearted or cliched, while the messages are so simplistic that they're meaningless. It's a real shame. And it makes us want to watch August: Osage County all over again for some rip-roaring family nastiness.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs 7.Oct.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall