Formulas run business and industry. That much we know. Hollywood has a bunch of them. Family based ones right up to the romantic comedies. Often these movies are inspired by real-life, and are sometimes fictional. This Is Where I Leave You is a formulaic comedy-drama that doesn’t really reach into the depths of your soul. The film deals with a family and how they cope with a a death at the same time reconnecting with each other. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s because you will see the parallels with other films as well. Boasting a wonderful cast, the movie tries its best to break through. But you don’t feel it. There is a loss of a connection, somewhere. Like a call re-routed by a bad service provider, you will be left scratching your head.
Directed by Shawn Levy, This Is Where I Leave You tries to make a family drama relevant. It focuses on a single family whose dysfunctions are plenty and solutions are few. We have the Altman family, who after the death of the patriarch, decide to honor his last wish and have a shiva. This is a Jewish tradition where the family comes together to mourn for seven days. So now, the Altmans have to live with each other for seven days. From here the entire movie unfolds. Secrets come out, sibling-ribbing and rivalries, pain gets assuaged, hearts are mended and lo, a movie is born.
Jason Bateman plays the primary character in this film. But you can’t really say that, because there is this wholly wonderful cast that shines during certain portions of the film. We have Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant and Dax Shepard, just to name a few. Each and everyone has something to hide and over the course of the plot, these little secrets come out. Bateman does his part well, and you can’t help but root for him. Other than him, you will smile whenever you see Tina Fey on screen. She enjoys playing sibling to Jason’s character. In fact, she will remind you of your own sister, tough but fragile. Jane Fonda is brilliant to watch. She has just aged beautifully. While you watch her perform, you will feel that this is truly a mother who is trying to connect with her family. The direction is good in parts, but the film is ruined by pandering to the crowd. Some characters feel like that they were just exaggerated for no particular reason. Timothy Olyphant doesn’t get enough screen time but he does a good job. The premise is good, however, the execution fails to make the grade. There are moments where the heart strings could be plucked, but it feels maudlin and far too rare. On the whole, the movie doesn’t make use of all the talent that is on offer.
Why should you watch this film?
This Is Where I Leave You deals with a family and death. That is a topic that makes for somber watching. There are points though, where you will have a smirk on your face. In certain places you will feel for the characters and then in a moment, the connection is lost. Tina Fey and Jane Fonda are a treat to watch. Jason Bateman does his best as the man who is trying to reconcile with his loss and the state of his life. In the end, the movie makes you feel something. However, that feeling is rare and that’s the pity. In the end, it’s just another formulaic comedy-drama.