People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
Shawn Levy is bit of a turd when it comes to directing but with the right actors he can actually put together a semi-decent flick (see Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell). That said, his general turdness as a director throws everything off balance, so let’s just throw the dice in the air and see what happens.
This Is Where I Leave You is like a white, Republican take on The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s a film stacked with a whole bushel of some of the best actors working today (Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, etc.) and their interactions are the very best part of the film. I won’t ding the film for surrounding the actors with a narrative that just loosely connects them as a disparate family coming together to sit shiva for this deceased dad. I can ding the film for placing the actors in an atmosphere that somehow transplants upstate New York to the Midwest, and uses the frailest of plot devices to drag them through their predictable character arcs. That said, for every bland, vaguely conservative bit of film, you get an interaction between Bateman and Driver, or Bateman and Byrne, or Driver and Stoll, or Fey and anyone. These moments, almost across the board, are fantastic, humorous and heart-wrenching and shot through with the credibility and acting chops actors of these stature nearly always bring to a role. I can’t say that This Is Where I Leave You (based on a Jonathan Tropper novel and screenplay) is a particularly funny movie, but it manages to imbue it’s character interactions with a realism and sense of gravity you wouldn’t expect from the guy who’s behind the Night at the Museum films. By the end of the film though, when everything has wrapped up reasonably nicely, emotional connections have been reformed, and the characters have separated into their own slightly better lives, I didn’t feel sated. Levy has the benefit of great actors, but he doesn’t have the benefit of being a particularly interesting director, and the film suffers for it. There might be a great film here starring Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, and Jason Bateman, but Levy buries it in over-explained platitudes and neatly tied up conclusions, and when you get to the end the saccharine nature of it all just doesn’t jibe. It’s a nice effort, but not a great film.
Get Stoll, Driver and Bateman in a film together. Make it a heist movie or a 70s softcore or something. It’ll be fantastic.