I feel like I only write about films I enjoy for whatever reason, so today I’m going to write a review for a film I did not particularly enjoy. Sadly, that film is This Is Where I Leave You.
Briefly: the family patriarch dies and the troubled, emotionally scattered offspring must return home, sit Shiva (mourn/hang-out for 7 days) and bicker and discover themselves before we get the emotional hugs at the end of the movie. Done and done.
Ok, now that the entirety of the film has been laid out I can break down what doesn’t work in this thing. Well, let’s start with what does work: Adam Driver and Rose Byrne (kinda). No offense to Jason Bateman (and I love him) but he continues to do the Michael-Bluth-everyone-is-crazy-embarrassed-reaction bit that got him back on the map in the first place. He’s been reduced to a one-trick pony these days, and he still does the shtick well, but it’s getting tired for me. I hope he does something different soon, because he has to be getting bored. Maybe not so bored cashing these movie checks, but I digress.
Adam Driver plays the youngest sibling (the immature screw-up) who brings home his much older therapist to show-off, much to the catty chagrin of the rest of the family. He has the perfect charisma (you could argue he has the only charismatic performance in the entire film) to drag this film out of boring, melodramatic cliche land from time to time. Rose Byrne displays a similar sense of charisma and is also a breath of fresh air whenever she appears, but sadly she is reduced to a puzzle-piece in Bateman’s arc by the end of the film. She could have been her own movie or had her own subplot and it would have elevated the movie about the dregs.
Tina Fey, Timothy Olyphant, Jane Fonda, and Connie Britton round out the rest of the notable cast who are reduced to footnotes and paper-thin versions of real human beings.
As per usual, everyone in the film has a bad history and bears a grudge of some sort (lost love, guilt/grief, former lovers, maternal issues, etc) that is used to create comedy in the first act and then devolves into string-thin conflicts as the film continues, ending with resolution and emotional catharsis in the form of happy music and hugs. If you’ve seen movies where characters spout out completely unnatural dialogue as they describe their feelings and discover themselves with somber music in the background, then stretch out your eyeballs now, because you will be doing some heavy eye-rolling.
The main issue with this film is everything about has been done before and every narrative beat is expected. It’s not a terrible version of a film you’ve already seen, it’s just the same thing as most every other family dramedy. If you’ve never seen a film like this you’d probably enjoy it, but if you have then you’ll be able to write each scene before you see it. So take that for whatever you’d like.
Ahhhhh….it feels good to write negatively. What does that say about me? Maybe I’ll have to do more of this. Stay tuned…