This Is Where I Leave You

Directed By: Shawn Levy

Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Ben Schwartz, and Jane Fonda

For a director, Shawn Levy has relatively high productivity.  Just look at his throughput.  Since 2011, he's given us Real Steel, The Internship, the upcoming Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and several made-for-television movies.  That's a busy schedule as a director, and it's not even including his comedy-drama This Is Where I Leave You arriving in theaters this weekend.  As you can see in some of my reviews, I've thoroughly enjoyed his movies in recent years.  Sometimes, however, quantity drowns out quality, and that's the situation we may have with his latest film This Is Where I Leave You.

Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) has undoubtedly hit a rough patch in his life.  He discovers his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) having an affair with his boss from the radio station Wade Boulanger (Dax Shepard).  To make matters exponentially worse, he gets a call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) confirming the passing of his father.  Returning home for the first time in quite some time, he gets exactly what the doctor hasn't ordered, time with his three siblings Wendy, Paul (Corey Stoll), and Phillip (Adam Driver).  According to his mother Hillary (Jane Fonda), his father's dying wish was to have Judd and his three siblings remain at home for what's known as a shiva, a seven day mourning period in which immediate family members must remain at the deceased's home to receive visitors.  Somehow, Judd's atheist dad embraced a Jewish tradition, and his four children are morally obligated to honor his wish.

As the Altman clan gets used to being grounded under the same roof for the first time in years, all their skeletons come out of the closet.  A wounded Judd tries to keep his looming divorce a secret while also spending time with his old flame Penny (Rose Byrne).  Wendy has a heated trip with her disengaged husband Barry (Aaron Lazar), and yearns for her ex-boyfriend Horry (Timothy Olyphant) who suffers from a brain injury.  Paul is on the clock to produce a kid with his wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn), who just happens to be Judd's ex-girlfriend.  Lastly, Phillip is engaged to be engaged to psychologist Tracy (Connie Britton).  Their mother Hillary and her rabbi Boner (Ben Schwartz) get front row seats as all this family drama unfolds.

Sometimes, putting out so many movies in such a short time span compromises the final product.  I can't speak for the Night at the Museum sequel just yet, but this is definitely the case for Shawn Levy's latest film This Is Where I Leave You.  The movie has a messy, choppy plot that seems jumbled together.  It has underdeveloped characters for his overloaded cast.  It has tonal inconsistencies as it indecisively oscillates between a low brow comedy and a higher brow comedy-drama.  However, I'm of dual minds when it comes to This Is Where I Leave You.  On the one hand, I can easily recollect all these gripes with the film.  On the other, I recall plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and some intriguing family drama during the movie.  Despite its issues, This Is Where I Leave You is definitely entertaining.

With a stacked ensemble cast, Shawn Levy tries to give each of them a moment to shine on camera.  For his part as Judd Altman, Jason Bateman brings his typical dry brand of humor, which works to positive effect when he's playing opposite plenty of other colorful personalities.  For her part as Wendy, Tina Fey gives us a rather feisty sister who can hold her own with her three brothers.  As Paul, Corey Stoll gives us a rigid man trying to prove he's fun to his siblings while simultaneously avoiding becoming a genetic jackhammer.  We also have Adam Driver as Phillip.  Bringing his trademark brevity, he infuses the film with a healthy dose of youth and sarcasm.  Lastly, Jane Fonda portrays the matriarch Hillary.  While I don't agree with the boob gag throughout the film for an actress of her stature, the two-time Oscar winner delivers the goods when it counts.

The supporting cast brings quite a bit to the film as well.  For her part as Penny, Rose Byrne brings one eccentric, effervescent personality to the screen and shares strong romantic chemistry with Bateman.  For his part as Horry, the dude with a brain injury, Timothy Olyphant brings a rather odd yet intriguing personality to light.  However, I'm not sure he quite knows how to play this role in a comedic setting.  As such, the performance seems to be more of a caricature of an individual with such an injury than an actual depiction of one at times.  As Alice, Kathryn Hahn gives us one amusing, aggressive wife who wants Corey Stoll's Paul to get her pregnant pronto.  Lastly, we have Connie Britton and Ben Schwartz as Tracy and Boner respectively.  They each make plenty of funny observations about the Altman family.

I could go on and on talking about how the cast members give endearing, entertaining performances.  However, we've got a case in which a good cast meets a bad film in This Is Where I Leave You.  It is Shawn Levy's responsibility to drive this film towards a cohesive vision that can stand on its own apart from Jonathan Tropper's source material.  As it stands, he doesn’t quite do so.  This Is Where I Leave You gets a 0.06% rating.  The cast can't and shouldn't do everything.  Have a few mimosas with this one.