Source: IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371150
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll
“This is Where I Leave You” is a story of a family brought together under difficult circumstances, in this case, the death of their father. It wasn’t the only movie premiering at the TIFF that brought strained relationships to light through the death of a family member. Robert Downey Jr.’s “The Judge” begins with news of the death of his mother, forcing him to go home to face his estranged father. As depressing as funerals may be, they tend to be common plot devices in movies since they bring an array of people into contact, as happens in “This is Where I Leave You.”
The movie begins just as Judd Altman’s (Jason Bateman) life is falling apart. Judd happens to walk in on his wife cheating on him with his shallow boss, played by Dax Shepard. While it was quite obvious to predict the scene that was about to unfold, and although the scenario seemed a bit clichéd Judd’s reaction was definitely something to watch. Not too long after the aforementioned event, Judd hears news from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) of their fathers passing.
The story focuses on Judd as he navigates through both tragedies in his life, but there is much emphasis on the problems of his three siblings as well. Wendy is watching her marriage fall apart while keeping a handle on her two kids. Paul Altman (Corey Stoll), the oldest sibling, is having difficulties conceiving with his wife which only proves to strain their relationship. Last, but definitely not the least, is the youngest Philip (Adam Driver) who is the quintessential baby of the family. He lives a life of no responsibility, and takes all the slack he is given. We also can’t forget the siblings’ mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) who isn’t quite the conventional widow.
When the siblings arrive home, they are quite surprised to hear that their atheist father found Judaism before his death, and his last request was for his children to sit Shiva for him. For those of you who don’t know what a Shiva is (which I didn’t before this movie!) it’s a seven day long mourning period in which the direct family members of the deceased gather at one home and receive visitors. This serves as an inconvenience to the siblings, but they decide to honour their father’s last wish and embark on a week filled with discovery, pain, and some sibling love.
The character of Judd Altman isn’t one that is new to Jason Bateman. He’s the straight-laced guy thrust into situations he rather avoid, things like having to put up with his siblings, and meeting the demands of his mother whose head seems to be entirely elsewhere. While there are parallels to “Arrested Development,” the Altman’s’ story brings a little more heart ache with it. It might be because it’s easy to see our own relationships and experiences mirrored in theirs, and it isn’t always roses and daisies.
Adam Driver’s performance as the youngest Altman is really one to watch, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the recognition Driver’s received from his last few roles. He’s obviously a scene stealer, but he also brings out the best in his co-stars. Some of my favourite scenes in the movie are just watching him interact with his older siblings, especially Tina Fey and Corey Stoll.
“This is Where I Leave You” is really a delightful poignant movie from director Shawn Levy. I was pleasantly surprised with his ability to tackle some of the darker themes in the movie considering he’s quite well known for his “Night at the Museum” franchise and often sticks with his comedies. The movie is wonderfully written, and the sound track soothes the indie soul.
The film isn’t necessarily a story of redemption, or a seven day quick fix to all their problems. It’s a story of patience and love, the patience to wait out the storm, and the love of those around you to pull you back up again.
I recommend this movie if you want a break from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’ll make you laugh, and it might make you cry, but it’ll definitely leave you with a little hope and a smile by the end.