Monday, June 18, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives At Home Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the story of one man’s hilarious search for the meaning of life.  As slacker Jeff stumbles towards enlightenment, he uncovers answers to his nagging family’s problems.  Jeff has no idea where he’s going but when he finally gets there, he might just find out what it’s all about.  Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as the hapless title character, Ed Helms (The Hangover 1 & 2) as his slightly more accomplished brother and Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon as their long-suffering mother are all fantastic in this quirky and hilarious comedy from Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus). 

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is an original look at family dysfunction, told in a down to earth and realistic manner.  It's approach reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine by the way each member of the family has their own issues and there isn't any one person that is free of trouble.  For Jeff, Who Lives at Home, after the death of a family member, each of the family members has becomes isolated from the world, each other, and in the case of one of them their spouse too.  Their self-imposed isolation has caused a detrimental effect on their lives, as one of them has been left lonely, another is having marital problems, and Jeff is thirty-year old man who still lives at home.

Jeff (Jason Segel) is content to live in his mother's basement and watch TV when he isn't sitting on the toilet thinking about cosmic message and life itself.  His behavior doesn't make his mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) happy, since he can't be counted on to follow the most basic of instructions like fixing a blind.  Jeff would rather get high and waste his days away.  When Jeff receives a wrong number call from someone asking for "Kevin", it's not long before he's convinced that it means something especially when he see someone on the bus wearing a jersey that says Kevin on it.  He follows the young man with the jersey and ends up playing basketball with him until Kevin and his friends beat Jeff up and rob him.  On his way back home, Jeff runs into his brother Pat (Ed Helms) who has just left a Hooters restaurant after his "business lunch."  Pat is also having a bad day since he got in an argument with his wife Linda (Judy Greer) who was very angry to learn that Pat bought himself a Porsche they can't afford without involving her.  Pat's day gets worse when he sees that he got a parking ticket and crashes the Porsche while trying to impress Jeff with the car's performance.  Pat's terrible luck continues when Jeff notices Pat's wife Linda having a lunch with an unknown man across the street.  Pat immediately believes that Linda is cheating on him and sends Jeff to eavesdrop at the restaurant which only seems to support his worst fears.

Meanwhile, Pat and Jeff's mother Sharon is also having an interesting day since she is getting instant messages at work from a secret admirer.  Flustered and excited at the same time, Sharon tries to discover who is the person sending her the messages, thinking that it must be one of the co-workers around her.  She shares her feelings and worries with her good friend Carol (Rae Dawn Chong), who understands exactly how she feels.  Sharon tries to force the admirer out into the open by suggesting that they meet at the water cooler, she embarrasses herself by mistaking a man getting a drink for her admirer.  It's not long before Sharon realizes that the secret admirer may represent another kind of love and a different life path for her.  All three of family members are separately led together by fate and once each of them allows themselves to surrender to it, their lives change quite a bit.  For all of his issues, Jeff's belief in cosmic fate is eventually shared by the rest of his family, which is hard to fault since Jeff's quest for a "Kevin" had led him to Pat, which led them to Linda, and then to their mother Sharon on a freeway, where Jeff's quest comes to an end.  By the end of the movie, each of them have gotten out of their rut and become a closer family and have changed their lives for the better.  Despite the film's quirky concept of cosmic fate, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, is a very grounded film whose characters are going through some relatable everyday issues that are a challenge to everyone which gives the film a level of honesty and power that balances the more intangible concepts of fate in motion. 

The bulk of the movie rests on Jason Segel's character of Jeff, and Segel does a great job of making a loser for all intents and purposes, into a sweet naive guy who loves his family but has no clue what to do with his life after his father passed away.  Ed Helms is also great as the guy having a mid-life crisis who believes that owning a Porsche will make him feel like a man again and fix all of his problems.  Both Segel and Helms do a nice job playing characters that are different from the ones they usually play.  Segel isn't his usual manic self and Helms isn't the put upon straight man, which allows them to show their range beyond their usual roles.  The rest of the cast including Sarandan, Greer, and Chong are all effective in their small roles as well.  This film marks the Duplass brothers' most mainstream movie and it's an easy one to recommend with this great cast and its universal themes.

Paramount's 1080p ( 1.78:1) transfer of Jeff, Who Lives At Home is extremely impressive for a low budget film.  Filmed using HD video photography, this transfer is amazingly pristine and free of any kind of blemishes or digital defects.   Colors are vibrant and jump off the screen and the black levels are solid and pitch black.  The transfer's clarity is very impressive as you can see every bit of texture and detail in razor sharp focus.  Flesh tones look natural and realistic throughout the movie.  This transfer proves that HD Photography is making leaps and bounds of improvement and it's getting closer and closer to proving the naysayers wrong about digital being inferior to film.  This is a fantastic transfer from Paramount and one that will make the film's fans happy. 

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Jeff, Who Lives At Home's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also far better than I imagined it would be.  While this is a dialogue driven movie, this is still an impressive lossless mix that is far better than the kind of mix we usually get for these kind of movies.  The front channels offer some crystal clear dialogue that is never drowned out by sound effects or the score.  The rear channels provide some light ambiance which is never overbearing, but instead it's realistic and gives you a sense of space.  On the few occasions where the sound effects come to the fore, like when Pat crashes his Porsche into a tree, the mix offers some nice support from the LFE channel.  This may not be the most active and powerful mixes out there, but it is a well balanced crisp and clean mix that delivers exactly what is needed for the film.

Extras (1 out of 5 stars)

Unfortunately, other than an UltraViolet digital copy, there are no other extras on this disc which will bring down the final score.

Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Jeff, Who Lives At Home, is mostly a comedy but with a little bit of drama mixed in to keep it grounded and real. The actors all do a great job in their roles especially Segel, Helms, and Sarandan.  While the movie is not perfect, this movie has a charm of it's own and if you let yourself go along with the premise much like Jeff, Pat, and Sharon do, you will most likely enjoy your time with these characters.

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  1. Good review, Sean. I saw this in the theater, and while not the type of movie I normally go for, I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks Allie! I agree with you and liked that it wasn't exactly what I expected but still enjoyable. It's nice getting surprised sometimes!