'Jeff Who Lives at Home' is an unexpected gut-punch of emotion. It's a movie so carefully crafted, yet so simple, that by the end I was in awe of the feelings it stirred in me. Watching a great movie can be a very personal experience. An experience that triggers deep thought about one's life and attitude. 'Jeff Who Lives at Home' inspires us to take stock of what's really important in life. How simple events can indeed lead to great things.
The Duplass brothers (Mark and Jay) are busy guys. Just this past Sundance I saw three separate movies that they were involved in one way or another. Here they've written and directed perhaps their finest movie yet. A touching movie about a man who has a simple way of looking at life. A man who has no job, no prospects, who lives in his mother's basement, but still has a lot to teach us.
Jeff (Jason Segel) is by all accounts a loser. He smokes weed in his mother's basement while she's at work. He's in his 30s, but he's unemployed. Unencumbered by the prospect of going to work every day, Jeff has time to think about life in a different way. As Jeff explains through his opening monologue about the movie 'Signs,' he's always on the lookout for signs from the universe, or a higher powers, or fate. Whatever it is, it really isn't said. Jeff believes in a cosmic order to things. "Maybe there are no wrong numbers," Jeff exclaims to a person after he's trying to explain a weird phone call he got that morning where the person on the other line was asking for Kevin. The rest of the day Jeff follows whatever signs he finds that relate to "Kevin." Whether that means following a kid with Kevin imprinted on the basketball jersey he's wearing or jumping onto a candy truck emblazoned with the name Kevin's Kandy's, Jeff is all about finding answers to questions that might not even be there in the first place.
Jeff is an eternal optimist and pacifist. It makes sense that he'd be surround by selfish narcissists. His brother, Pat (Ed Helms) is Jeff's complete opposite. Pat is obsessed with all things material. He's even purchased a new Porsche much to the chagrin of his wife Linda (Judy Greer). Jeff's mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon) is an overworked, underappreciated maternal figure who, at this point in her life, is constantly bugged by her own children. One of them is a lazy loser and the other is a complete self-centered idiot. She just can't win.
Using this basic premise, the Duplass brothers have crafted a life-affirming story. A story that, while funny, has an emotional undercurrent that is just as effective as any Oscar-winning drama. On the outside Jeff's life might appear to be in shambles, but his way of looking at life is enviable. He follows whims, goes with his gut, and tries his best to give other people the benefit of the doubt. He may be ignorant at times, but he's willfully so, because he wants so bad to think that all people are naturally good and that something (or someone) has a grand plan for everyone.
Just recently I lambasted 'Man on a Ledge' for relying too heavily on coincidences to bring its story to a perfectly happy, although extremely improbable conclusion. Now I'm praising a movie for using "coincidences" as its central theme. The point here though is that they are the driving force behind the story. They aren't used to conveniently sidestep important issues or plot holes. These coincidences may not even be coincidences at all. Not if Jeff is right and everything happens for a reason.
During his speech about 'Signs' Jeff comments about how all the randomness in the movie is leading up to one perfect moment. It's perfect foreshadowing for what's to come. Not too many movies can pack as big of an emotional wallop that 'Jeff' packs in under 90 minutes. The movie flows so well, and constructs its characters so perfectly, that you'll swear it was longer. Yet, here it is. Three totally organic characters. One of them is actively searching for meaning, but all of them will find it. 'Jeff Who Lives at Home' is one of the rare movies that once it was over I immediately wanted to watch it again.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Paramount release that comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. There is also an UltraViolet Digital Copy code included. It comes packaged in a standard sized Blu-ray keepcase and is Region A coded. Video
It was filmed digitally on Red One cameras, but the 1080p end product looks rather filmic. If you're looking closely you can pick out moments where it does appear as digital photography, but for the most part the presentation looks very cinematic.
Where digitally filmed movies usually falter is in the darker regions. Usually, when its bad, blacks appear flat and depthless. That isn't the case here though. Shadows are very well delineated. Shadows naturally accent facial features, textures, and dimension. The movie has a very natural look to it as do most of the Duplass filmography. Even though this is a lower budget movie it has all the looks of a higher budget comedy.
Colors are well-saturated. Skin tones are even and natural. There's a crispness to the lines and I didn't notice any fuzzy or soft scenes that stuck out. Some minor banding can be seen in light blue gradient skies, but it's only temporary and, really, if you aren't looking for it you really won't notice it at all. This is a very fine transfer.
The movie has been provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that offers a wide variety even though the movie is so low-key. What I noticed here was how immersive the surrounds were even though the movie had every right to be a very front-centric presentation. Restaurants, outdoor basketball games, and a loud car crash are all presented with wonderfully well-rounded sound that immerses the viewer.
The track has perfectly clear dialogue, even though at times people talk in whispers. Every word is distinguishable. The movie's musical soundtrack freely floats throughout the soundfield creating a very nice listening environment. This presentation isn't meant to really wow, or blow your socks off, but it does what it does really well. For a understated comedy it's one of the better, more enveloping presentations you'll listen to.
Sadly there are none. A commentary from the Duplass brothers and the main actors would've been very welcome, but there's nothing to speak of here. I was sad when I noticed that there wasn't even a section entitled "Extras" on the menu.
'Jeff Who Lives at Home' touched me on a personal level. All at once the movie's true purpose becomes clear and it's a heart-wrenching moment to say the least. It's one of the more thought-provoking movies I've watched in a long time, yet the premise is so simple and the writing so unassuming that you're caught completely unaware when everything comes to fruition. "That one perfect moment," as Jeff would describe it, and indeed it is perfect. With great video and audio presentations this one comes highly recommended. A movie that might end up slipping past you if you aren't paying attention. Please, give it a chance. Highly recommended.