Written by Megan LaBruna
Plot: Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) finds out his wife has been cheating on him for a year and shortly after, loses his father. When he returns home for the funeral his mother, Hillary, (Jane Fonda) expresses their father’s wishes to sit Shiva as a family. He and his siblings Wendy (Tina Fey), Paul (Corey Stoll) and Phillip (Adam Driver) begrudgingly oblige. Over the course of those seven days, the family unravels. The Altman’s are full of marital issues, tragic love stories, adultery, babies, infertility and sibling rivalry. However life is not black and white, it’s messy and full of emotions, a lesson each of the Altman’s will come to realize on their own terms.
Directed by Shawn Levy, the film, This is Where I Leave You, realistically captures the feeling of family. They yell and scream, but they also laugh. There’s the obvious favorite child and the screw- up, but they still love each other. There’s disagreements and anger, but there’s forgiveness, and at the end of the day all that matters is family.
Judd Altman is a pretty standard role for Jason Bateman – easy going guy with sarcastic quips. Tina Fey had a little more moxie to her character than usual and I liked it! Hillary, the overtly sexual mother of the bunch is no new role for Jane Fonda. I only know Adam Driver from Girls, but I found him to be much more likeable as Phillip, even if he is the eternal baby of the family. As for the rest of the supporting cast, they were equipped to handle their roles, although I would have really liked to have seen more of Timothy Olyphant. His character had an obvious connection to the family, and it would have been interesting to have expanded slightly more on that. With such a talented cast, I think it could have done a little more with the group scenes. That being said, there are several moments in the film between the siblings, and one-on-one moments between Hillary and her children that they really get right.
The movie itself is based on the book of the same title by Jonathan Tropper. I have not read the book, however after watching the movie, I am inclined to check it out. The author adapted the book to a screenplay that was funny, emotional, and relatable to an extent. I thoroughly enjoy when a writer can balance the right amount of humor in an emotional scene, which makes me interested to see what Jonathan Tropper can do working with 300+ pages of a novel as opposed to the condensed screen version.
I’m not going to say this is a spoiler alert, but expect a surprise in there somewhere, however if you’re paying attention, it will be fairly easy to pick up on. Will the Altmans band together and make it through one of life’s hardest experiences? Check out This Is Where I Leave You in theaters now to find out.