release date: 19 September 2014
run time: 103 mins
considered: Comedy, Drama
director: Shawn Levy
starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz, Aaron Lazar, Cade Lappin
movie summary: Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is just a regular guy who has lived his entire life without taking any major risks. He has a great job at a radio station, a great New York City apartment, and a gorgeous wife that most guys would envy. His by the books life is about to be turned upside down when he comes home one day and finds his wife with another man in their bed. Judd goes on to quit his job and move to a small one room apartment when his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) calls to tell him that their dad just passed away. On his drive to the small town he grew up in, Judd can’t imagine anything worse that could happen to him then what he’s going through right now, but boy is he in a for huge surprise when he gets home.
Wendy returns home with her husband and their two kids. Her oldest son is learning how to use the toilet and drags his training one around the house with him so when the moment happens, he’s ready. Her husband comes across as a jerk who spends all his time on his phone talking business before he informs everyone that he has to leave for a business meeting in London. Wendy has stayed strong for the sake of the kids, but is on the verge of a breakdown.
Their older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) has stayed in their hometown his whole life. He has been manager of the family sporting goods store since their father got ill and is married to Alice (Kathryn Hahn), a former girlfriend of Judd’s. The pair have been trying for a long time to have kids with no luck. The stress involved with having sex on a set schedule has put a strain on their marriage and they rarely get along anymore.
The youngest kid of the bunch is Phillip (Adam Driver), and despite being in his early 30’s now, is still treated like a baby. He is currently engaged to a psychologist Tracy (Connie Britton) who is about twice his age. Phillip has never grown up while taking everything for granted including his fiance. He’s unemployed but now owns a share in the store after their dad’s passing. He wants to work there but Paul will have none of it.
Everyone returns home to see their lovely mom Hillary (Jane Fonda), who spends the whole week telling stories about her late husband. She is not bashful to show your fake boobs and talk about her wonderful sex life with anyone who wants to listen. The kids are embarrassed beyond belief and try to take every opportunity to run from the house whenever the opportunity presents itself. Despite her wild personality, Hillary is the glue that keeps the kids together as they come together for the first time in years. Everyone is carrying a lot of mental baggage and spending seven days together to honor their Jewish traditions is enough to drive everyone more insane.
This group of misfits will try their best to honor their dad’s dying wishes while using this time to bond together and reevaluate their lives. No matter how much they try though drama just keeps happening to this family. Judd has a surprise visit from his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer), and Wendy will try to ignore her feelings for her first love Horry (Timothy Olyphant) after her husband abandons her. Phillip will put his relationship in jeopardy by flirting with a gorgeous ex-girlfriend, while Alice will throw herself at Judd because she just wants to get pregnant. When Paul and Judd break out in a brawl, their mom Hillary decides it is the perfect moment to break the news to them about a secret she’s been keeping for a while.
When all the dust settles, everyone is able to pick up the pieces and put the family back together. They realize no matter what happens in life this is who they are and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
my thoughts: Last Friday in my weekly movie release preview, I listed This Is Where I Leave You as a box office bomb. I regret those words, a lot. I went into this movie with no expectations because Jason Bateman has disappointed before in serious roles, while I’ve openly admitted that I’m not a fan of Tina Fey. Those two factors lead me to think this movie would be bad, but this amazing cast did a fantastic job of telling the story of such a dysfunctional family. I loved every part of this movie and consider this to be one of the Top 10 movies I’ve seen in 2014. I was laughing from start to finish and was wiping away tears from laughing so hard.
As much as this movie is about Jason Bateman’s character Judd, Tina Fey’s character steals the show. She is the straw that stirs the drama up a few notches for everyone in the house. She knows how to push everyone’s buttons and isn’t afraid to throw a few punches when the matters call for it. No one can ever imagine what Judd is going through, but after getting kicked in the gut and recovering on the floor, he gets kicked several more times. He can never catch a break. Things may be bad, but when he begins to find a silver lining, they only get worse. His sarcastic wit and wisdom will help him through these times and steer him towards a brighter future. He suffers the most in the movie but is by far the least dysfunctional family member.
Adam Driver has started to make a name for himself and was a great choice to play the baby of the family. He just fit the part so perfectly, whether he was teasing the local Rabbi, flirting with his older fiance, or showing that he still doesn’t understand what responsibility really means. He is the free spirit of the group who thinks he knows everything and will strike up a good debate if he feel he’s right. He butts heads with his oldest brother Paul because he refuses to grow up and act like everyone else.
Corey Stoll is an important character in the story as the oldest sibling of the clan, but his marital issues don’t compare to what others are going through. His wife steals more of the performance then he does because she is so desperate to get pregnant she is willing to try almost anything. Kathryn Hahn has always been a solid supporting actress who can be really funny when called upon. She makes up for their part of the family story because her husband is a monotone kind of guy who is overshadowed by his brothers and sister.
None of these characters put themselves in more awkward positions then Jane Fonda did. This Hollywood legend has the goods to show and isn’t bashful to speak whatever crosses her mind. Her revealing outfits catch everyone’s eyes including her kids because they can’t believe what happened to their mom. The jokes never end when they talk about the “pillows” and how they never want to hear about their parent’s sex life. Her character is overshadowed by all her kid’s issues but without her these kids would not where they are today and wouldn’t come together for one wild week of drama.
my final thoughts: I wish I could talk more about the movie but I don’t want to give away too much. I feel bad for judging it so harshly before giving it a chance, because it surprised me and kept me laughing through out. It has an amazing cast and is filled with many adult/sex jokes and references. I’ve never been a huge fan of dysfunctional family movies but this one is by far one of the best. Despite its mixed reviews, I highly recommend you find time to watch this at some point because you’ll laugh, maybe cry, and then be happy you don’t live with the Altmans.
my star rating: 9 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 43% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 2 out 4