Do you believe in fate? Like, everything in the world is interconnected, and everything happens for a reason?
Jeff (Jason Segel) believes in fate. He's a 30-year-old slacker living in his mom's basement, watching his favorite movie, "Signs," over and over in between bong hits, waiting for his destiny to become clear through his personal fog.
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home," the best of the Duplass Brothers comedies ("Baghead," "The Puffy Chair," "Cyrus"), begins with Jeff and his slightly loopy notion. But like a puppy following its nose, the story interconnects Jeff's story strand with those of his older brother and mother.
Jeff's the kind of guy who will get a wrong-number call from a guy asking for Kevin, then spend the rest of the day trying to figure out whether he's supposed to connect to somebody named Kevin.
Jeff's estranged brother, Pat (Ed Helms), is the kind of guy who will buy a Porsche behind his unhappy wife Linda's back (Judy Greer), then rationalize to her why this is a better move for their troubled marriage than buying a house. Soon Pat is spying on his wife, convinced she's having an affair.
Jeff and Pat's mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), widowed and loveless for 15 years, is surprised to realize she really doesn't like who her kids have become. When harassing Jeff to fix a broken shutter doesn't produce results, she calls Pat to bug Jeff about it. Pat thinks Jeff is just a loopy loser.
Sharon is the kind of woman who, when she gets "secret admirer" e-mails on her work computer, automatically assumes she's the butt of some joke. Carol (Rae Dawn Chong), a work friend and something of a confidante, offers to help.
Secret admirer. Someone named Kevin. Possible cheating wife.
Before these pursuits are concluded, you'll see a car chase, a mugging, a motel-room fracas, an office evacuation, a succession of sibling fights including one in a cemetery, and a couple more events you just have to wait and find out about.
Let's just say each of these characters has reached a fork in life's road.
What I liked about "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is that the comedy is character-based and funnier because it's grounded in some kind of reality instead of the over-the-top forced silliness of your typical gross-out comedy.
And, before it's over, it will take you to several conclusions you would never have expected — but that are actually quite moving, without ever pushing the boundaries of false sentiment.
It's not a particularly great or groundbreaking movie. But the individual performances of Greer, Sarandon, Chong, Helms and Segel get under your skin in ways that will leave you scratching your head — and wondering if you believe in fate.
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