Remember August:Osage County last year? It’s basically like that, except they try to make you laugh instead of want to kill yourself.
“This is Where I Leave You” is the story of a family who tries to work through many years of dysfunction in the days following the death of their father. It’s based on the best selling novel and puts together an incredible cast including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda as part of this interwoven family trying to piece themselves together as they deal with love, life, and what it means to be a family.
Now right off the bat, I have to say I’m really impressed by this ensemble of actors they managed to collect for this. Beyond even the three I mentioned, these are some talented people doing some really good work. I won’t take time to go down the list, but there’s not really a weak performance here, and that’s saying something for a movie with at least a dozen major characters weaving in and out of the story. The standout of course is Bateman who continues to be one of my favorites working. In the moment’s where this movie works, it’s usually because the humor is landing, and much of that is due to his perfect understated timing and delivery. I even think he even amps up his dramatic chops in this one in a few scenes delivering some of the only dramatic moments that feel genuinely meaningful.
And that’s my main issue with the film, most of the meaning and heart of it just falls flat. You get the sense that the story is supposed to be deeper than it ends up feeling on the screen. I think this might primarily come down to the fact that there isn’t much of an overall theme to hold onto here. I mean, I know it’s about family, but it seems just as much to be about marriage, or about finding love, or even about the stories we make ourselves believe. All of these would be great themes, but all of them together I think give the story a lack of emotional focus that ends up draining any individual moment some of some of its power. It could also be that there just isn’t enough space in the movie to fully realize the depth of these stories that the book delivers, and the viewer can feel the missing pages that the reader may be subconsciously filling in. Also don’t mistake this for a PG-13 family comedy. I mean, it doesn’t push the R rating as for as most modern comedies do, but it certainly takes the opportunity to earn it wholeheartedly.
Overall, “This is Where I Leave You” is a well acted and often funny flick with some more great work by Jason Bateman, If only the deeper moments had landed with as much success, it might have found it’s way to more than a C+