Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mark & Jay Duplass: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Paramount Vantage, 2012.

Wearing its ambling, searching, sad-funny heart on its shoulder, indie (now pseudo-indie) stalwarts the Duplass Brothers continue their search for the truth at the heart of America. Many of their contemporaries are on much of the same search; Andrew Bujalski, Azazel Jacobs, Ronald Bronstein, and Ben and Joshua Safdie come to mind. Their "mumblecore" styles eschew style for dialogue and character development, relying on hand-held cameras. This conglomeration of Cassavetes and Dogme 95 can be refreshing and invigorating.

 The Duplass Brothers were the first to really cross over into the mainstream, i.e. using well known movie stars and character actors, with their very good Cyrus a couple years back. John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei were all allowed to roam free within their characters, and the audience could feel the energy.

Their new film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, follows in much the same pattern. An inverted family slowly comes out, we get to know them, through someone viewed by others as a deadbeat kid, a grown man still living with his mother. This time, its Jason Segel, who has never really looked this far into himself as an actor. In the title role, he is nothing short of wonderful. Set in one day which goes from mundane to extraordinary, we also have Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon, as his fed-up but loving brother and mom, respectively, both giving career high performances (for Sarandon at least, that's at THIS dry point in her career). Judy Greer and Rae Dawn Chong both give riveting support.

Although admittedly uneven, such is the stuff of life. The Duplass Brothers are unwavering in their commitment to examining us as human beings first and Americans second. Their love for life and cinema is vital.

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