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Film Review – This Is Where I Leave You

3 min read

With a slew of cheesy comedies under his belt, including the Cheaper By The Dozen and Night At the Museum franchises, you would be forgiven for assuming This Is Where I Leave You is another one of Shawn Levy’s attempts at trying to be funny and only succeeding about 10% of the time. But an intelligent script and a fantastic cast led by the forever sardonic Jason Bateman has ensured that this is definitely Levy’s best directorial work yet.

The film starts off with a bang; literally, with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) discovering his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) has been having a long term affair with Judd’s boss/utter moron Wade (Dax Shepard). But the good news doesn’t stop there, as it is discovered Judd’s father has passed away. Cue a forced family reunion, as mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) insists on Judd and his siblings Wendy (Tina Fey), Paul (Corey Stroll) and Phillip (Adam Driver) all must sit Jewish tradition Shiva in order to pay respects to their late father. Naturally the sparks fly, as the serious Paul is struggling to impregnate his baby crazy wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn), Wendy has two kids and is married to a complete jerk, all the while still in love with the boy next door Horry (Timothy Olyphant). The self-absorbed, immature Phillip is dating his much richer, much older therapist Tracy (Connie Britton), and Judd has yet to tell anyone about his separation from Quinn, including potential new love Penny (Rose Byrne). But like any good family dramedy, the ones we hate to love are those that teach us the greatest lessons, and the Altman clan are no different from my family or yours.

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Like any great ensemble film, the key to success is casting and chemistry, and This Is Where I Leave You has it in spades. Each actor brings their own brand of humour to the table, all the while staying within the confines of their characters personalities. Tina Fey puts in a great turn as only daughter Wendy, bringing her intelligent comedic style to the fray that in other films is often hit and miss. Here it is on point every single time, and like her days on SNL it is apparent that Fey does her best work in a collaborative setting. The only weakest link would be the much more experienced Fonda, who as matriarch Hilary was disappointingly underused and whose sole purpose was to seemingly be a punchline for boob jokes. We know Fonda can be great in a comedy (9 to 5 & Monster In-Law), so it was unfortunate that here she was relegated to old maid status, just there for a shoulder to cry on or give advice where it was needed.

The script is cleverly done, and has the right blend of comedy and drama that makes this a memorable film. The low-key moments are touching and pull the heart strings just so, recognising that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and at the core is a film based around a great loss. Writer Jonathon Tropper weaves these moments in with some hilarious ones, including a particular scene where the three boys ditch church in order to get high in a Sunday school classroom. Yes, this sounds like a scene from some raunchy, forgettable teen flick, but here it is done with an appropriate amount of light heartedness with a sprinkle of solemnity that is present throughout the entire movie.

This Is Where I Leave You will resonate with audiences on different levels, depending on your life perspective. Some may appreciate the dry wit that is ever present; others may find comfort in the more understated moments. Whatever the case, the film succeeds in shedding light on the constant dysfunctional family unit, one that is always a quiet reassurance.

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