Jeff, Who Lives at Home- Indy Dud

Jeff, Who Lives at Home- Indy Dud

March, 16, 2012, by Isaac Weeks

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When I first started writing reviews for New Raleigh, the original thought was that it would be mostly independent films being covered. Here’s the rub: most indies don’t receive proper releases anymore, with more and more figuring out that the real money is in offering their movies on cable video-on-demand channels weeks before a theater sees a poster. Also I will take a moment to let you in on a little secret: most indies suck.

Before anyone comments, I realize I am painting an entire area of cinema with a wide brush of judgment, but too many wannabe auteurs are able to put their half-assed ideas in front of an audience as long as they can afford a couple of cheap cameras and have enough friends to fill the roles. Too often a movie will receive good buzz from critics for having an ounce of originality and professionalism stretched over 90 minutes.

That brings us to Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the latest from indie-cinema sensations Jay & Mark Duplass. Considered by many to be the finest directors of the “mumble core” movement, perhaps their most formidable talent is networking. Whereas their compatriots in indie world are still holding on to the motto, “If it doesn’t look like crap, it’s not art,” the Duplass Brothers have actually been able to cast fairly big name stars into their last few films, and had said films released by major studios. The problem still seems to be that no one can get a fully formed script onto the screen.

Jeff (Jason Segel) is a 30-year-old living in his mother’s basement, unemployed and lacking direction. A fan of the film Signs, he is sent by his mother (Susan Sarandon) to pick up a tube of wood glue one morning, and begins seeing fate’s hand in everyday occurrences. Running into his overbearing brother Pat (Ed Helms) along the way, the twosome studies their family’s dynamic while spying on Pat’s possibly cheating wife Linda (Judy Greer).

Not much of a description, but then again, not much of a plot. The Signs bit is dropped about halfway through the movie, and is only picked up again at the end as a convenient way for the filmmakers to explain characters choices. The characters are all basically unlikeable, and the audience is given no reason to wish them well in the future.

To give credit where it is due, once the Signs stuff is forgotten about the film becomes a study of one family’s dysfunction and a realistic portrayal of a marriage falling apart. Jeff’s dad died while the brothers were teenagers, and Jeff was left with an asshole of a brother and a mom that doesn’t particularly like him very much. Ed Helms’ (The Hangover) work here as Pat is the best of his career, playing a man that doesn’t seem capable of caring about those closest to him. When his wife is spotted with another man, the thought doesn’t seem to enter his mind that he may be losing her, sending Jeff to listen to their conversation only so he’ll “have something to hold over her head when I need it.” It would have been easy to switch the actors’ roles so that the more physically imposing Segel could play the heavy, but Helms is a revelation in the role.

The Duplass’ have shown in the past, like last year’s Cyrus for instance, that they have the talent to become major players in filmmaking in the future. Once they realize they don’t have to push out a half-formed movie every year like it’s a quota system, I believe they will truly begin to make their mark. As it stands now, take Jeff’s advice and just hang out in the basement this weekend and far away from the cinema.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home opens today at the Colony in Raleigh, Southpoint in Durham, and the Chelsea in Chapel Hill.


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  • Bill
    03/16 11:59 AM

    Indy, as in Independent Weekly?  Or, Indie as in Indie Film?

  • Isaac
    03/16 01:18 PM

    Bill, when you think about it, aren’t we dealing with semantics more than grammar in this case? We are talking about two types of media, both dealing with the word “independent”; for some reason, each has a unique way of spelling the same thing? I say hogwash and balderdash!
    Sorry for the strong language…

  • Jortastical Scrodakle
    03/16 04:36 PM

    I say just admit you goofed up and used Indy the way only The Independent weekly uses it when you meant indie.  Just fix it instead of trying to play it off.  Unless this has something to do with the Indianapolis 500.

  • Keena
    03/17 10:07 PM

    Wow Isaac, I usually like your insight, but this time I completely disagree…

    Jason Segel is an accomplished writer, Ed Helms is far from desperate, and Susan Sarandon can do whatever she wants. So assume that the script has survived their scrutiny. Then, it’s “indie”… so there’s little chance of huge box office returns. So why would these people sign up for a movie that lacked a plot? Unless… it had a brilliant one.

    Each character was special, and they were fully developed. Susan Sarandon sat in a cubicle for nearly the whole film, yet we understood her life story. Jason Segal made a pothead who lives in his mother’s basement seem lovable and charming. Ed Helms was responsible for most of the comedy and found a way to balance that with his character’s life changing crisis. It was funny. It was tragic. It was a complete story. It stretched my mind, which is pretty much the purpose of art. (Were the Duplass’ mocking us the whole time?)

    After reading your review I was worried that I didn’t love the film as much as I thought I did. Luckily the SF Chronicle and New York Times reviewers share my reaction.

  • Isaac
    03/17 10:18 PM

    Keena, you’re not going to change my mind, but I loved reading your thoughts.

  • Bill
    03/18 08:35 PM

    Isaac, you’re not going to change my mind.  Google the word “Indy” and you’ll see this isn’t about “semantics” unless we’re talking about the semantics of the word “malopropism”.

  • Bill
    03/18 08:36 PM

    Or Malapropism.

  • R. Ebert's Butler
    03/19 11:07 AM

    Segal has his talents, but being a comedic actor is not one of them. He’s a likeable everyman. But, that’s about as far as his range goes, right now. But, most of the Apatau (sp?) crowd is like that. They are OK when they have a great script and a great director, but to see one of them on a talk show it’s just like seeing one of my not so funny friends up there. Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, the list goes on of non-comedians who are always carrying an entire comedy with fair to middling success these days.

  • Jason
    03/19 09:29 PM

    What happened to the review of John Carter on New Raleigh? I just searched for it and couldn’t find it. If I recall the review hear was somewhat positive and called the movie “good fun”. Well according to audiences around the world and the box office that movie is now regard one of the biggest flops in movie history!

  • Isaac
    03/19 09:41 PM

    There’s the link; it just worked for me.

    Also, it seems like you are trying to say that JC sucked, based on no one showing up to see it. Fact is, Disney knew it would bomb weeks ago based on polling numbers. That has nothing to do with quality, that’s an issue with perseption of success.

    Other than the link, I’m not sure what you’re looking for. If its an apology, keep fishing, and feel free to enjoy another viewing of THE LORAX.

  • Jason
    03/19 11:52 PM

    I think it is far too late to apologize for the movie reviews on this “Raleigh” wesbite. The damage has already been done. Kudos Isaac, your pedestrian wit is surpassed only by your poor taste in movies. How’s that for a perception of success?

  • Isaac
    03/20 05:52 AM

    So you’re saying Contraband ISN’T the best film of 2012?!?

  • Mike
    03/20 07:25 AM

    Where’s Craig Lindsey when you need him?

  • james
    03/20 11:49 AM

    Ahhh, NewRaleigh. Where hipsters can trash everything and everyone from the safety of their parent’s basement.

  • James
    03/21 10:50 AM

    “Most indies suck.” Well, most movies suck. This review, as usual, doesn’t say anything interesting or insightful, basically just says, “I didn’t like it” and goes onto give a vague plot summary. New Raleigh really should consider diversifying their choices of film subjects and film writers.

  • Isaac
    03/21 11:05 AM

    I’m interested in knowing what types of films you don’t think we cover enough, James. I can tell you that we review almost every film that is screened in Raleigh for critics based in the Raleigh area. If there is an indey that isn’t given a writeup here, it’s because the studio decided to just open it without an advanced screening.

  • Steven Malkamus
    03/21 12:26 PM

    Isaac, ignore the haters. John Carter is the m____r f_____g BOMB, yo!!!

  • James
    03/22 08:54 AM

    Well when you click the “movie reviews” tag button it doesn’t bring up all the reviews, a glitch I assume. But looking at old posts by you, who I believe is the exclusive film writer for the site, there are several glaring omissions from the past year of both indie (which is the appropriate spelling of the word) and mainstream films that could have generated interesting discourse including, but not limited to: Friends with Kids, A Separation, Meek’s Cutoff, Higher Ground, Hanna, Page One, Project Nim (any documentaries, really, a genre almost entirely neglected within the record of reviews I can find), not to mention that the only female-directed film you’ve reviewed has been, “One Day,” a structural problem, certainly, but one you’d hope a progressively-minded site would make more of an effort to pay attention to. I understand film isn’t the primary focus of the site necessarily, but if it is a component that drives traffic and discussion, which it appears to, you may want to consider bringing in additional voices to contribute to it.

  • Isaac
    03/22 09:27 AM

    First of all, I sincerely appreciate the thought that went into your response, James. For months (a year or more, maybe), I haven’t even read the responses to my columns because they basically boil down to, “U r the suckz,” and I would like to think that NR readers can rise above your average 4Chan commentater.

    Out of the list of films that you mention, you are correct, I did not write reviews for them (although I’m pretty sure there is a Page One review on the site somewhere, since I watched it at last year’s Full Frame). As mentioned above, I do not review films that the studios don’t feel the need to screen for review in the Triangle. To be honest, a couple of those may have been screened and I just couldn’t fit it in; a lot of indees are shown to critics at noon on a random day of the week so no one will find out about it and sneak in.

    If a movie isn’t screened for review, I don’t feel the need to review it. I understand a reader might check out a review AFTER they have seen a movie, so as not to be spoiled to any of the plot or what have you, but if a movie is released on a Friday and you don’t get the review published until a few days later, that just looks amateur hour. My personal opinion, but one I’m willing to bet is held by many.

    As for the female director thing, I apologize if that is something that you feel is being overlooked on this site, but I can honestly say it boils down to the screening process once more. I promise you I do not control who directs the films I watch; if it’s a woman, great, but most films are directed by men, so what can ya do?

    Also, I would be curious to know how many of you that complain about my reviews do so because you want to review films for NR. My wife used to ask me why so many bastards were commenting on my articles, and I would point out to her which ones were just trolls and which ones seemed to be waiting for the editors of NR to email them back and offer them a spot. As I mentioned above, I stopped reading comments shortly thereafter so maybe things have changed, but this article now has close to 20 comments which makes me assume it’s because I’ve given someone the attention they’ve wanted all along. I dunno, something I was pondering.

  • Eric
    03/22 01:22 PM

    Five percent of movie directors are female, so the reviews appear representative. Your argument sounds misplaced (should be directed at female non-movie directors). Btw, the blog is not anyone’s customer and the reader is not a client. Your whining entitles you to nothing.

  • James
    03/23 09:43 AM

    I wasn’t whining as much as providing feedback as requested by Isaac in the thread.

    I understand the limitations placed on you by the screening process. And I understand your opinion that it’s not worthwhile or respectable to post a review after the movie’s already opened. I just disagree. I think that oftentimes this just perpetuates the problems with the studio system and with how movies are marketed and how great films, and films whose subjects are of what is perceived to be an outside demograph (read: POC, women, queer folk), are often overlooked because of this process. A delayed endorsement on a site like this could help to draw attention to these projects, even if it’s after their opening weekend, because if nobody knew about them in the first place, then nobody’s going to find out about them.

    I try not to complain about your reviews and if and when I do I try to make it more engaging, as you noted, but, as you also noted, the internet is relentless and mostly stupid. But I’d love to review for NR I just didn’t think that you accepted submissions for film reviews.

  • willncsu
    03/26 11:13 AM

    James, who lives at home.  Also an Indy dud.

  • Jay
    03/26 11:50 PM

    The correct word in this case would be “Indie” as in Indie Film Festival. Artful movies can be good too. Ey just have to be more clear and accesible. Warhol created accesible art

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