I have recommended no book more constantly in the past few years than Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You. When the Altman patriarch dies, his grown children return home to sit shiva with their busty, widowed mother (Jane Fonda). Life could not get much worse for main protagonist Jud (Jason Bateman), who is in the process of divorcing his wife (Abigail Spencer, from the under-watched Sundance drama “Rectify”) after he discovered she is sleeping with his boss (Dax Shepard).
His siblings are no better off. Older sister Wendy (Tina Fey) has two kids and will never love her husband as much as she loves her old flame, Horry (Timothy Olyphant), who has not been the same since a traumatic brain injury in his 20s. Responsible older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) runs the family business and cannot get his wife, Annie (Kathryn Hahn), pregnant. Baby Phillip (Adam Driver, who is always excellent) is just as irresponsible as one would imagine the youngest sibling to be. Over the week they must spend together, secrets are revealed, old scabs are picked off and family bonds are tested and somewhat strengthened.
Director Shawn Levy mostly stays out of the way, letting Tropper’s script and the gifted cast work their magic. Bateman is a gem in almost any appearance, and his precise comic talents and timing match up excellently with Tropper’s particular brand of man-child. (I’d love to see him do an adaptation of the author’s How to Talk to a Widower). This Is Where I Leave You is not built to win awards; ultimately, it says very little (and looks as generally bland as a network sitcom), even if it says it very entertainingly. Still, it does amuse—a rare cinematic feat this time of year.
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