Jeff Who Lives at Home is the forth feature film by the Duplass brothers, who were part responsible for the “mumblecore” movement with their first film The Puffy Chair. Similar to The Puffy Chair, Jeff Who Lives at Home is about two brothers who have two completely different mind sets about life that bond over a road trip of sorts. Jay and Mark Duplass have now edged their way into the limelight now, but their style of quick zoom cinematography, loosely scripted dialog, and indie heart felt qualities have remained intact, thankfully.
As the title would suggest the film is about a man named Jeff (Jason Segel) who lives at home. Not only does he have no home of his own, but no job or significant other either. He firmly believes that if you look at coincidences hard enough that you will find they actually happen for a reason as part of your destiny.
His brother Pat (Ed Helms) is looking to fill a void in his life by buying a Porsche, despite his wife’s (Judy Greer) wishes and the fact that he really cannot afford it. Pat does not think very highly of Jeff as he has always had to do everything for him. The two brothers have never truly bonded.
Jeff desperately tries to put connections together for everything that enters his life. He receives a phone call from someone looking for Kevin. They had the wrong number but he considers that a sign. He studies the name to find the significance. Nothing comes to mind although he is able to scramble the letters around in the name to spell knife (adding the letter ‘f’).
It is not until he gets on a bus that he finds the connection. Someone is wearing a jersey with the name Kevin on the back of it. After following him around a little bit he ends up playing basketball with him. The path connects him to a restaurant where he runs into his brother Pat.
Pat is not particularly enthused to have run into Jeff as he received a phone call from their mother (Susan Sarandon) instructing him to straighten Jeff out a little bit. But as destiny would have it, the brothers are given an opportunity to finally bond to one another as they begin to investigate whether or not Pat’s wife is cheating on him.
Jeff knows that the greatest day in history is today and lives his life accordingly. Pat does not see life that way and is envious that Jeff does. It is the first and only time that Jeff has something that Pat does not, which marks a significant moment in each of their lives.
There are at least two situations in the film that were incredibly tense because of how real the relationships feel. The Duplass brothers do an amazing job with films that do not have complex storylines but instead have wonderfully real characters and situations. Some people may say I am biased towards their films but only because I seem to connect so well to them.
Just like how Jeff made connections in the film, I made some of my own to one of my favorite indie films, Me and You and Everyone We Know. The first connection between the films is the original music in both films was done by Michael Andrews. You can hear the resemblance in the score even if you did not catch his name in the opening credits. The second connection I made is that both films feature a character that mostly communicates through instant messenger with people they have no idea who is on the other end.
There is a repetitive theme of a bird flying in the sky throughout the film. The bird to Jeff is a metaphor to fly your own way and to compulsively live life in the now. There is a fantastic scene towards the end where he sees a helicopter that reminds him of the birds he saw in the beginning.
Most Duplass brother films have not always ended the in a way that pleases the audience, they instead end how they should in real life. Jeff Who Lives at Home may be an exception to that but it was done in a way that remained completely satisfactory. After all, who are we to argue with destiny?
The synopsis of Jeff Who Lives at Home is a rather powerful yet whimsical one, it is about believing that things in life happen for a reason. However, the film had just the right amount of laugh out loud moments combined with the right amount of emotional scenes. Achieving that level of balance along with making the film full of heart is something that is rarely done this well. The Duplass brothers make it worth being passionate about films.
WayTooIndie Rating: 8.9/10
This article originally appeared on WayTooIndie.com: Jeff Who Lives at Home
Review by WayTooIndie.com’s Dustin Jansick
Dustin Jansick is the founder and editor of WayTooIndie.com which focuses on reviewing independent films and music. He has a huge love for indie cinema as well as anything that P.T. Anderson makes. Aside from being a film critic he also is a web designer who maintains AbstractInfluence.com as well as a few other sites.