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"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" Review

Whimsy can be hard to pull off. The awesome dearly departed TV series Pushing Daisies nailed it; mumblecore* movie Jeff, Who Lives At Home doesn't do as well due to its self-conscious oddness and mistaken belief that simplicity is profundity.

Jason Segal (stop me if you've heard this one before) plays a man-child stoner, Jeff, who, um, you know, it's in the title, and sits around all day smoking dope and watching TV. (Segal, really? No! Yes!) When a wrong number rings up looking for a Kevin, he sets off on an errand for his mother and begins following all the signs related to "Kevin" which leads him to misadventures and a little magical serendipity. Also occupying this world is his d-bag, a-hole brother (Ed Helms) who doesn't seem to understand why his wife (Judy Greer) is upset that he bought a Porsche while they live in a crappy apartment; and their mother (Susan Sarandon) who is being flirted with via IM by a secret admirer at her office.

Writers-directors Mark and Jay Duplass are trying to make a low-key meditation on fate and the interconnectedness of everyone and everything, but it doesn't work because everyone acts stupidly, only to suddenly make personal breakthroughs as the plot schedule dictates. Segal does better-than-needed work here making Jeff into something of a rootable character, but the sense of ennui pervades everything. When all the plot lines come together at the end, it's too pat.

I read an interview with Mark Duplass (who's also a very busy actor) in which he states that he doesn't mind sloppy camera work, zooming in to catch the action. He's kidding himself. This movie had the most needless calling-attention-to-itself camera shenanigans since Roger Dodger, snap-zooming over and over for no reason. This isn't the documentary style of The Office where it makes sense; this is just jumping around to have something visual happening. Knock it off, kids.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

* In the same interview, Duplass says that he hates being lumped in with the "mumblecore" label because it makes it sound like something people won't want to watch. Um, yeah?


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