Family Grieves Patriarch in Droll Dramedy Based on Best Seller
When Mort Altman (Will Swenson) passes away, his children return home reasonably expecting to remain in town briefly. After all, despite being raised Jewish, they have no reason to expect to sit shiva, since their dad was an avowed atheist and their psychologist mom (Jane Fonda) is a gentile.
However, after the funeral, Hillary Altman informs her offspring of the dearly-departed’s dying wish that they mourn him for a week in accordance with religious tradition. And then, she announces that they’ve all just been grounded for seven days, as if they’re still children.
This development doesn’t sit well with any of the siblings, since they don’t get along and this is the first time they’ve all been sleeping under the same roof in ages. Furthermore, their dad’s death couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment, since each is in the midst of a midlife crisis.
Judd (Jason Bateman) has just learned that his wife (Abigail Spencer) is having an affair with his boss (Dax Shepard). Meanwhile, brother Paul’s (Corey Stoll) marriage is in jeopardy because his wife’s (Kathryn Hahn) biological clock is ticking very loudly but she’s been unable to get pregnant.
Then there’s playboy baby brother, Philip (Adam Driver), a narcissist with unresolved oedipal issues, judging by the fact that he’s dating a shrink (Connie Britton) old enough to be his mother. He’s such a self-indulgent womanizer, he doesn’t think twice about shamelessly flirting with an old flame (Carly Brooke Pearlstein) right in front of his mortified girlfriend.
Finally, we have only-sister Wendy (Tina Fey). Superficially, she seems to be the most stable of the four as a doting mother of two with a devoted, if emotionally distant, husband (Aaron Lazar) who at least is a great provider.
Barry’s obsession with his career on Wall Street has come at the cost of preserving the passion and intimacy in the relationship. So, the last thing Wendy needs now is the temptation of a duplicitous dalliance being dangled in front of her eyes in the form of Horry (Timothy Olyphant). However, her hunky high school sweetheart is still single, still in shape, and still right across the street, even if he’s brain-damaged and lives with his mother (Debra Monk).
All of these sticky situations serve primarily as fodder for a sophisticated brand of humor in This Is Where I Leave You, an alternately droll and laugh out loud dramedy directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night). Adroitly adapted to the screen by Jonathan Tropper, author of the best seller of the same name, this relentlessly-witty film features some of the funniest repartee around as it simultaneously explores a laundry list of sobering themes ranging from religion and mortality to love and betrayal.
A character-driven examination of a dysfunctional Jewish family about as wacky as they come.
This Is Where I Leave You
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and drug use
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers