Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You... A Little Too Crowded...

I'm not gonna dance around the issue, This is Where I Leave You is not really an ensemble film. But it's cast as if it is one.
Shawn Levy put together an interesting film contemplating life, death, and family. He created an element of heart and meaning, and got some pretty fun albeit rather forced performances from his cast. So in my estimation, he didn't fail with This is Where I Leave You. He just made a film with too much going on... to such a degree that I as an audience member didn't really know what to care about or focus on at any given time.
Shortly after Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) discovers his wife has been cheating on him with his boss, his sister (Tina Fey) calls him up to tell him their father has died. Talk about a bad month. So Judd goes back home for the service and his mother (Jane Fonda) springs it on him that his father wanted all of the siblings to sit shiva... seven days with your dysfunctional family... sounds like fun, huh?
In truth, the only real constant is Jason Bateman. And that's because he is absolutely the lead of this film. Which is strange given the massive cast Levy surrounded him with. Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shepard... You should know all of these names pretty well at this point. And while I do really like Jason Bateman, I was left wondering why more attention wasn't paid to other cast members... or more importantly, why were they all there if it was so clearly meant to be a Jason Bateman vehicle?
I think that This is Where I Leave You's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. An all-star cast can sometimes be a burden on a production. And in the end, the weight of too many bigger-than-life performers was too much for this movie to bear. This is not to say I didn't enjoy the movie, rather I think it could have been a much stronger film than it was if only it had been pared down a bit. One character less would honestly have helped... Two and this may have even been on par with The Big Chill... probably the best film in this particular sub-genre.
That being said, I wouldn't turn you away from This is Where I Leave You. It's good enough and you'll probably have a good time... Just recognize it's not going to be a perfect movie... which is fine. That's a pretty rare thing to find anyway: a perfect movie.

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