Friday, October 3, 2014


Rated:  R

Stars: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda (and a cast of seemingly thousands!)

Director: Shawn Levy

Genre: Comedy-Drama

Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is having the shittiest day of his life. He walks in on his wife boinking his boss. There goes his marriage and his job in one fell swoop. Then his dad dies. I was immediately drawn in by And This Is Where I Leave You because I have had that day. That very same one. The circumstances were a little different, but the emotional impact was the same.

And so Judd, of the Altman clan, which includes more characters than you can shake a script at or easily keep track of,  spends most of the rest of the film in a state of semi-shock--while the matriarch of the clan, Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda), dictates that the assembled offspring who've come to pay their respects to dad must "sit Shiva" (try to say that real fast several times), meaning they'll have to put up with each other in that house together for seven days.

There will be comparisons to The Big Chill,  as the siblings and their own extended families interact, reminisce, air their frustrations and regrets, ruminate about missed chances and what might have been, or lament what actually came about. In other words, This Is Where I Leave You  drives home the point that nobody is ever really happy. We're all in a continual state of suppressed angst, or "quiet desperation" as Thoreau so eloquently put it.

It's an impressive ensemble cast--too unwieldy for all of the characters to become developed. The true standout, though,  is Tina Fey as Wendy Altman, Judd's sister. This is Fey's coming out party, and she emerges as a serious actress of surprising depth. Yep, she was holdin' out on us all this time with all those SNL skits! Bateman is excellent here as well.

Jane Fonda's fake boobs also give a standout performance.

Grade:  B +  


First off, let me say I really, REALLY loved this movie. Much as I hate the term 'dramedy,' This Is Where I Leave You embodies it. There's plenty of humor but the film is equally steeped in family trauma. I guess you'd have to say the main story line centers around Judd Altman, played to perfection by Jason Bateman. For me, Bateman has some of the same qualities as Steve Carell, or even the great Charlie Chaplin. No matter what role he's playing, or how ridiculous the situation is, you immediately like and/or sympathize with him. 

Aside from Jane Fonda's fake boobs and incredible body, Tina Fey's well delivered one-liners, and Adam Driver's ever-youthful flakiness, I must say my biggest kudos go to the scriptwriter Jonathan Tropper (who also wrote the novel on which the movie is based). Why? Because each character is incredibly well-defined, with his or her own issues and questionable coping skills. This Is Where I Leave You is truly an ensemble piece where everybody gets their moment to shine. And the story keeps moving forward—or unraveling--with delightfully unexpected resolutions.

If I had to nitpick, I'd say my only criticism would be the choice of a title. I would've called it Sitting Shiva.