The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


This Is Where I Leave You

You know what a “love it or hate it” movie is. This Is Where I Leave You is a “like it or hate it” movie. I can't imagine too many people loving it – the film plays everything way too safe to make any sort of meaningful impact – and a fair number of people will hate it. But there will be those who find just enough worthwhile to get some enjoyment. That's the category I fall into. Jonathan Tropper wrote the script, which is based on his best-selling novel, so he's presumably okay with any changes or alterations for the screen.

Jason Bateman plays Judd Altman, a radio producer who comes home one day to find his wife in bed with his shock jock boss (Dax Shepard). He immediately leaves both of them. Suddenly separated and jobless, things seem like they could not get worse. Then word comes that his father has died. His mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda), reveals that her late husband's dying wish was for his four adult children to sit Shiva after his passing. This leads Judd to spend a week living under the same roof as his siblings, all of whom are just as troubled as he. Sister Wendy (Tina Fey) is unhappily married and carrying a torch for former boyfriend Horry (Timothy Olyphant), who lives across the street from Hillary. Older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) has been trying unsuccessfully to impregnate his wife (Kathryn Hahn) for two years. Younger brother Phillip (Adam Driver), the perpetual screw-up, is now dating his older therapist (Connie Britton). As the days drag on, family secrets are revealed and long-buried hostilities are brought to the surface. The only solace Judd finds is in reuniting with an old friend, Penny (Rose Byrne), who has long pined for him.

This Is Where I Leave You admittedly glosses over a lot of weighty issues. Death, infidelity, sibling rivalry, and infertility problems are just some of them. Directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night, Night at the Museum), the film definitely takes an uber-commercial, middle-of-the-road approach. Serious themes are explored only at a surface level. Oftentimes, rather than really digging in, the script goes for a joke instead. This tendency can be a little frustrating, as some of the ideas beg for more depth. For instance, we learn that Wendy, for very good reason, maintains a deep emotional attachment to Horry. The movie tells us why, and shows Wendy feeling bad about it, yet never really plummets the guilt she can't let go of. A steadfast intention to remain in the shallow end of things is, by far, the single biggest liability of This Is Where I Leave You.

That aside, the movie has two things working in its favor. The first, and biggest, is the cast. Everyone here is terrific. The other is that This Is Where I Leave You is often genuinely funny. These things go hand-in-hand. Jason Bateman does some hilarious slow burns as the guy who can't believe his family and his life are so messed up. Tina Fey rattles off a lot of stinging one-liners. Jane Fonda shows a willingness to go for broke with gags about her character's breast implants and subliminal desire to show them off. The standout, though, is Adam Driver (Girls), who invests the irresponsible, self-absorbed Phillip with a live-wire streak that is consistently, pleasantly surprising. Everyone in the cast works well together, generating very amusing chemistry between the characters. There's even a killer running gag about Wendy's son, who potty trains himself at the most inopportune moments possible.

The performances and laughs are enough to make This Is Where I Leave You enjoyable, provided you can overlook the shallowness and frequent sitcom compulsions. It's not a great film by any stretch, but it does hit on things anyone with a family can relate to. This is a feel-good movie about things that don't feel very good when you encounter them in real life. And that's okay, because it's nice to have a reminder that having family to lean on, even when they drive you crazy, can get you over life's hurdles.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

This Is Where I Leave You
Own This is Where I Leave You on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on December 16th.

This Is Where I Leave You is available December 12 on Blu-Ray combo pack, DVD, and digital HD. The bonus features kick off with a full-length audio commentary from director Shawn Levy and author Jonathan Tropper.

“Points of Departure” is a four-part behind-the-scenes feature, looking at how the bond between Bateman and Fey was formed, Jane Fonda's contributions playing the strong family matriarch, the sibling characters, and making a movie with an ensemble cast that addresses so many different themes. All combined, it runs about twenty minutes and offers some useful insights into how the tone of This Is Where I Leave You was achieved.

“The Gospel According to Rabbi Boner” focuses on the scene-stealing character hilariously played by Ben Schwartz. It features multiple alternate takes of the actor trying different ideas. If you've ever seen Schwartz on Parks & Recreation, you know he's an incredibly funny guy, so it's nice to see him get his due here.

Thirteen minutes of deleted scenes don't necessarily have any major revelations, but they do offer a few interesting little character bits. Finally, there's “The Narrative Voice,” a five-minute discussion with Levy and Tropper, who talk about translating the book to the screen.

This Is Where I Leave You is worth seeking out on any of its home video formats. The Blu-Ray's quality supplements add to the enjoyment.

This Is Where I Leave You - Relationship Chart

This Is Where I Leave You is rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.

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