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With: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong
Written by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Directed by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references and some drug use
Running Time: 83
Date: 09/14/2011

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The first on-screen pairing of Jason Segel and Ed Helms in Jeff, Who Lives at Home might seem like a formula for a laugh-out-loud, gross-out, "bromance" comedy.

Surprisingly, Jeff, Who Lives at Home comes from the brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, independent filmmakers who are sometimes associated with the "mumblecore" movement (low-budget filmmaking with low-key, naturalistic dialogue).

And so, while Segel and Helms definitely earn some laughs, the movie is rather more focused on something thoughtful and lasting.

Segel stars as the title character, Jeff, who indeed lives at home, passing the time smoking pot in his mother's basement. His mom (Susan Sarandon) calls him with a simple task: buy some wood glue and fix the kitchen window shutter.

But before he can leave the house, he receives a phone call, a wrong number asking for "Kevin."

Jeff is a big fan of the movie Signs, and so he keeps his eyes and ears open for... anything.

He climbs on the bus and spies a kid with "Kevin" written on his jersey. Jeff follows him, which leads to a round of misadventures.

Before long, he runs into his brother, Pat (Helms), who, unlike Jeff, has married and moved out of the house. Unfortunately, his marriage is falling apart, and he believes his wife (a superb Judy Greer) may be cheating on him.

Jeff wants to help his uptight brother, but when more "signs" pop up, he's powerless to resist.

Happily, the Duplass brothers, whose other films include The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and Cyrus, have a laid-back, matter-of-fact style that nicely meshes with the "everything is connected" theme.

If the movie had been too planned, too manufactured, the story would have come across as trite.

Segel and Helms generate friction with the old "laid back" versus "uptight" comedy formula, but they also include a fresh kind of brotherly warmth that makes the clash interesting, even when it's not funny.

Like so many comedy-dramas, however, the movie doesn't gracefully blend the two. It's probably too relaxed to consider the matter much. And so it does the usual, which is to let the comedy slide in the final third, in favor of pure drama.

As a result, Segel and Helms don't necessarily get to stretch much as actors, the way that, say, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love or Bill Murray in Lost in Translation stretched.

Yet if the whole point of is to be open to things, then Jeff, Who Lives at Home is pleasant enough to practice with.

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