Whether it is in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or How I Met your Mother, Jason Segel seemingly portrays a guy who is a bit of an oaf, though he does have a sensitive side that can be charming. He eschews most of these facades in Jeff Who Lives At Home in what is a welcome departure for him and others.
The film was written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, in a follow-up to their 2010 breakout success Cyrus. Segel plays the title character, a 30 year old that smokes weed and lives in his mother's basement most of the time. He tends to live his life believing in the overall cosmic significance of even the most trivial matters. We see it in the opening titles which "borrow" from a quote of his, we hear it as he discusses his appreciation for the larger themes in the film Signs. His mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking) works and calls to remind him to get on the bus and go to Home Depot to get some supplies to fix a shutter. Before he goes however, he gets a phone call, a wrong number from someone asking for a 'Kevin.' While making his errand to Home Depot he sees a Kevin on the bus, and thus starts a journey for him that takes him away from his goal and more towards seeking out the importance of Kevin in his life. Along the way, he runs into his older brother Pat (Ed Helms, The Hangover), who does not share his brother's belief set, yet they somehow accidentally spend a day together.
Segel eschews the sensitivity to a degree for a sense of inner peace that, as the film goes on, becomes engaging. It is easy to dismiss his thoughts of the larger meaning of a wrong number phone call, but the more the story evolves, the more we realize that Jeff's trust in his 'muddled' thinking may make him the most normal among his family. And he does all of this while serving as a mirror for those around him, both direct and indirect. Pat is in a dysfunction relationship with Linda (Judy Greer, Archer), and as we discover more about what their relationship is, we learn a bit about Pat as well, and Pat has some clarifying moments with Jeff. Sharon is in a different situation. She has this unemployed stoner son still living with her, her husband (their father) has long since died and her life is a lonely one. She gets a moment where an anonymous coworker sends her an instant message proclaiming their secret admiration, and this feeling of value is something that pleases and confuses her. Sarandon's role, while not as direct an interaction with Segel, proves to be an intriguing and charming performance.
What surprised me about Jeff the most may be the comfort in telling the story that the Suplass brothers seem to have. At first glance seeing that the film has an 82-minute runtime, my concern was the film may be shoddily told and the performances would be sloppy. To my amazement, the brothers have a confidence in the story that allows it to be devoid of filler that would stretch it into 20 more minutes that could wind up being tedious. The boys are so confident that they include an ending that flirts with being a little Altman-esque in terms of aspiration. However, within the scope of who Jeff is (and to a degree who Pat and Sharon are evolving into), it seems to work. You roll with it, and even shed a tear or two unabashedly.
If one were to expand Jeff's mentality into the world, it's that he is a Buddhist rock of sorts, tossed into the water, and Pat and Sharon feel the waves in varying degrees. Segel combines this peace with some flashes of comic timing (some of the scenes with Helms rival the best work that either have done recently), and Jeff Who Lives At Home proves to be a fruitful, funny and touching experience, and certainly should reinforce to those that aren't familiar that Jay and Mark Duplass' work deserves a bigger place at the cinematic table, and helps show us another side of Segel that would be nice to revisit in the future.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Paramount displays Jeff in an AVC encoded 1.85:1 high-definition presentation that looks quite good. The brothers Suplass along with their cinematographer Jas Shelton tend to employ handheld shots for most of their work, with some occasional quick close-ups on the characters during a scene. The disc handles this sudden action well and image detail is abundant on the actors in both facial hair and pores, with some finer fabric textures being discernible. The exteriors also possess solid detail and clarity with black levels remaining solid through the feature and the color palette looking accurate to boot. I was not sure what to expect from the disc but I liked what I saw.
A DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround track rules the day for the film, and the overall result is also better than I was expecting. Dialogue sounds strong and consistent through the film, and a more surprising part was how much low-end activity that occurred through the film, ranging from the bass of rap music to the thud of a Porsche Boxster into a tree. The chirp of a tripped fire alarm from the rear channels makes for a jarring yet effective experience and the soundtrack itself is understated in its immersion. Paramount has certainly done Jeff Who Lives At Home justice in high-definition.
An Ultraviolet copy of the film for streaming, but nothing else. While it is a rule of thumb for me to bitch about an average film having minimal extras, this film is better than most and has none. Nerts to Paramount.
Jeff Who Lives At Home not only shows us another side of Jason Segel that we have not seen before (and should see more of), but we get a film that is emotional and funny that go beyond his work. Technically the film proves to be a pleasant work to look and listen to, though the lack of extras for the disc (not even a commentary?) really hold it back from being a library keeper. That said, seek it out at your best opportunity for one of the nicer films to come out this year so far.