Lowdown: A dysfunctional family goes through a sort of a healing process as it congregates to mourn its dead father.
The whole Jewish mother genre of comedy is, in essence, an exaggerated extension of the dysfunctional family genre. As such it cannot boast much in the way of originality; once you get the drift it’s the same joke repeating again and again. Yet I could not avoid watching This Is Where I Leave You, a film about a dysfunctional family of Jewish origins/heritage that congregates together for a Shivaa when the father of the family dies. The reason is simple: I went through the exact same ritual this year myself. Mine was even more exaggerated in the sense that family members such as yours truly had to travel to the other side of the globe in order to attend the Shivaa, but let’s leave that at that.
Quickly, for the uninitiated: a Shivaa is a Jewish ritual where first grade family members of the deceased gather at the deceased’s home and stay there for a week while friends and relatives come to pay their respects. If you’re into faith and all that crap then you’re meant to pray and praise God for killing your favourite person, but neither mine nor the movie’s family were into that. In the case of the movie at hand the father, like yours truly, was an atheist; yet, according to the Jewish mother (Jane Fonda) his last wish upon his death bed was for the family to gather in a Shivaa. So be it.
Joining proceedings are:
- Judd (Jason Bateman), coming straight from the big city after catching his life partner in his own bed together with his boss and then learning he’s the would be father of the baby inside said partner.
- Sister Wendy (Tina Fey), whose life revolves around motherhood and whose husband is very obviously a bit of an asshole.
- Oldest brother Paul (Corey Stoll, of House of Cards fame), the only "loyal" child to stay in the vicinity of the parents and run the family shop, now struggling to have children with a wife that used to date Judd in a previous life.
- And last and least, son Phillip in the role of the black sheep of the family.
I came into this movie expecting laughs. Sure, there are laughs to be had, but they are rare and generally less than explosive. More than a laughing comedy, This Is Where I Leave You aims to pass a message of to its viewers. It’s there to say that we should forget what every responsible adult ever told us, accept that life is a bumpy road, and go with the flow – unless, that is, we want to end up as the loaded bombs this family of ours here is like. You’re going to be a father but you actually despise the mother and love someone else? Cool, embrace it!
I don’t know about that, but I do know that Jason Bateman comedies are a safe bet as far as passing the time is concerned.
Best scene: Under constant pressure, Judd breaks down and tells the whole Family & Co exactly what’s going on between him and his partner. I can tell you from personal experience, such confessions make for great Shivaa scenes.
Overall: Nothing special, just another dysfunctional family movie. 3 out of 5 crabs.