thu 20/06/2024

This Is Where I Leave You | reviews, news & interviews

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You

Amusing and truthful comedy drama about adult siblings

The family Altman (left to right): Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman and Adam Driver

Normally in Hollywood films, adult siblings being forced to spend time together is Thanksgiving-related, but in Shawn Levy's latest it's their father's death that brings the four grown Altman children together. Their dad, Mort, although an atheist, had a dying a wish to have his Jewish heritage honoured by his family sitting shiva (seven days of mourning).

Shades of The Big Chill then in the comedy drama, as Judd (Jason Bateman), Wendy (Tina Fey), Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll) gather in their sprawling suburban childhood home, where mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) - a writer of pop psychology who raided their lives for material as they were growing up, yet wonders why they have all turned out to be so repressed - has grounded them for the week. (So shades, too, of Nora Ephron's memory of her own childhood, where her screenwriter parents plumbed her and sister Delia's childhoods for stories; “Everything is copy, everything is material,” her mother once said.)

Judd is a risk-averse radio producer who has just separated from his wife after discovering her in bed with his best friend, and now discovers she is pregnant with his child; Wendy is married to a businessman too busy to notice her; Phillip and his wife, Annie (Kathryn Hahn), one of Judd's exes, are desperately trying for a child; while youngest Phillip really cannot grow up, despite bringing home his older fiancée Tracy (Connie Britton), who used to be his therapist and is now keeping him in the style he's become accustomed to.

That's a lot of stories to unravel in 103 minutes and Levy mostly - just - succeeds in keeping it believable. Jonathan Tropper's screenplay (adapted from his novel) has some nicely smart dialogue, instantly recognisable to anyone who grew up in a large family – in-jokes, insults and piss-taking, not all of it affectionate.

But the comedy often relies on shtick - Wendy's potty-wielding toddler; Hilary's new breasts, not so much peeking out from her bra as coming out to say hello; a baby monitor in the lounge where the shiva is taking place transmitting sounds of Phillip and Annie trying to make a baby upstairs - and the drama feels slightly paint-by-numbers in its resolutions as Levy directs with no great finesse. There is, though, a terrific curveball thrown in near the end regarding Hilary, who has more to her than her children give her credit for.

The stellar cast are all terrific. Bateman portrays Judd's world-weariness with great warmth, Fey neatly expresses Wendy's shortcomings, and Corey and Driver carry off the difficult trick of making us like their characters, annoying and selfish though they may be. Fonda, meanwhile, is clearly having a great time as the matriarch - and due props to her, er, props - while Hahn, Britton and Rose Byrne, as Judd's girlfriend from his teens with whom he hooks up again (pictured above), give solid support.

The comedy often relies on shtick and the drama feels slightly paint-by-numbers


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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