Review by Sam Wyatt
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver
In cinemas 23rd of October 2014
A pretty stock standard Hollywood comedy drama, This Is Where I Leave You is usually the sort of film I find hard to get into. The stereotypical dysfunctional upper middle class American family storyline has been done to death by so much god-awful commercial television but I was glad I gave this film time as it does deliver empathetic characters and genuine laughter.
The first fifteen minutes feels very familiar. Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) arrives home with a birthday cake for his wife to find her sleeping with his boss. Having left her, it is not long before he also receives the news that his father has died. This brings his usually distant siblings back together with their mother for the funeral and to fulfil their father’s final wish, to sit Shiva. It is in this setting of the Jewish Atheist home in mourning that each of the family member’s problematic personal lives is trawled through and yes, you guessed it, sparks fly in every direction.
What does save This Is Where I Leave You from being completely bland is a particularly strong ensemble cast. It’s easy to believe that it’s a family you are watching, crucial for this genre but this is also not a film for powerful performances. Having said that, Jane Fonda certainly delivers, shall we say, the biggest performance and I feel terribly sorry for the delightful young actor who plays Tina Fey’s definitely potty trained son. I’m sure his mother will show this film to all his friends at his eighteenth birthday.
The film is genuinely very funny although in many parts it does tend to rely a bit too much on sexual humour. Nevertheless none of it is in poor taste and the fact I found it funny must be a good sign because I’m not at all one for most American comedy, whether on the big screen or television. As with most family dramas of this nature This Is Where I Leave You constantly flirts with being too melodramatic but more often than not it is brought nicely back from this. Indeed the appropriate pace of the film in general gives the characters and the audience the emotional space needed between more active sequences.
One thing This Is Where I leave You nails is its length. It doesn’t fall into the trap of so many Hollywood films in trying to stretch its premise too far. Without being exceptionally deep it did prove to be a nice Friday evening’s entertainment and I would even go so far to say that it was heart-warming. It’s also a good film for a date but perhaps not if you’re experiencing relationship issues.