When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide— driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
One of these days – and that day may be coming soon – Hollywood is going to wake up and realize what a talent Jason Bateman is. Even in his appearances in low-brow, run-of-the-mill comedies, Bateman is almost always interesting to watch and brings real humanity to his roles. Finally, in Director Shawn Levy's 'This Is Where I Leave You', the actor is given a part worthy of his talent…and he pretty much knocks it out of the park.
The movie stars Bateman as Judd Altman, who – in the movie's opening minutes – comes home to find his wife (Abigail Spencer) sleeping with his boss (Dax Shepard). Not long afterwards, he gets a phone call from his sister, Wendy (Tina Fey), informing him that their father has just passed away. Dad has left his children with one remaining wish – that they participate in shiva (the Jewish ritual of mourning a loved one for a one-week period following burial) together as a family. This takes Judd back to his family home, headed up by his mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda), along with sister Wendy and brothers Paul (Corey Stoll) and Phillip (Adam Driver).
Those who have followed my reviews over the years know that I'm always drawn to stories about 'broken' people, and in 'This Is Where I Leave You', everyone seems to have issues to deal with. In addition to Judd's problems, Wendy is married to an uncaring husband and still yearns for a childhood love (Timothy Olyphant) who has a brain injury that affects his memory. Paul has a wife who loves him very much, but is continually frustrated over their inability to conceive a child. The single Phillip is dating an older woman (Connie Britton), but still very much acts like an immature child. As for mother Hillary, I won't reveal her secret, since the movie doesn't until late in the storyline.
The cast here is top-notch, but the real gem in the performances comes from Bateman, whose character of Judd looks like he'll get a second lease on life when he runs into old friend Penny (Rose Byrne), and a romance begins to bloom between the two – at least until Judd's wife drops a bombshell on her separated husband. Most of us already know Bateman is a solid comedic actor, but the depth of emotion he shows in this movie is really impressive. Hopefully, what he does here will lead to more dramatic roles in the future…it would be interesting to see what he could do in a really dark and serious role.
One of the smartest things this movie does is what it doesn't do: it doesn't try to wrap everything up in a bow for the audience before the end credits roll. Not only would that be unrealistic (after all, we're only spending a week in these characters' lives), it would be dishonest as well. As the movie takes time to point out, real life is complicated, and when the movie does wrap up, the fates of most of its main characters remains uncertain. The movie gives us hope that things will work out, but it doesn't spoon feed us a 'happy ending' the way so many Hollywood flicks do these days.
Perhaps the biggest injustice 'This Is Where I Leave You' has been served was by the studio and marketing department, who chose to advertise this movie as a comedy, when it's much more of a drama with tinges of laughs throughout. This isn't the kind of movie where you're going to laugh out loud a whole lot, but it is a film where you'll have a smile on your face through many of the scenes...it's that kind of 'comedy'. And while this isn't the first movie we've seen about a big dysfunctional family, it's one of the better ones that's come along in recent memory.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'This Is Where I Leave You' shows up on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, with the DVD on the inside left and the Blu-ray on the inside right. An insert contains a code for an UltraViolet copy of the film (with an ad for HBO's Girls on the opposite side). Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' and Annabelle. The DVD also includes an anti-tobacco ad, plus trailers for 'Mad Max: Fury Road', The Judge, and Horrible Bosses 2 that are not contained on the Blu-ray. The main menu on both discs is the standard Warners-type design, with a still of the cast/movie title and menu options running along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'This Is Where I Leave You' was shot digitally on ARRI equipment, and suffers many of the problems I've seen with other films shot on this brand. First and foremost, there's a noticeable issue with clarity between scenes that are well-lit as opposed to those that aren't. Scenes that take place outdoors show lots of color and detail, but many indoor shots – particularly those that take place in the family's basement, which is a major set piece, since that's where Jason Bateman's character has to sleep – are dimmer and have a much 'flatter' and muted appearance in this transfer. Also, there's a number of shots throughout the movie where noticeable noise is buzzing around in the background. This is most apparent on solid objects, like the walls behind the characters. I also noticed a few instances of the screen 'jittering' or jumping during pans of the camera, as well as some minor aliasing here and there.
For the most part, however, the image here isn't all that unpleasant, and despite the issues I listed above, black levels are mostly strong, and sharpness and depth are pretty good, aside from a handful of darker scenes. If you have a bigger screen, you'll probably find this transfer more problematic. Most with smaller screens (50" or less) shouldn't be too distracted by some of the glitches (and may not even notice many of them).
The main track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD one, which proves to be more than enough for a movie like this. As one could probably guess, this is a dialogue-heavy movie, so almost all of the audio is up front, with the rears only really being used to enhance the soundtrack and for the occasional ambient noise. However, because of the focus on dialogue, things like directionality or immersiveness are all but non-existent, although that has more to do with the movie itself than any issues with the audio. With that in mind, the dialogue here is crisp and clear, and the track doesn't suffer from any obvious glitches, like dropouts or the like.
In addition to the DTS-HD lossless audio, Dolby 5.1 tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Featuring one of the best performances of Jason Bateman's career, 'This Is Where I Leave You' has been improperly marketed and labeled as a 'comedy', when in fact it's much more of a drama with some lighthearted moments. If one goes in with the proper mindset (not looking for big laughs, but rather just looking for some great performances), there's a lot to like about this movie. Recommended.