I swore in 2002 that if I had to listen to another 20-something white male discuss the staggering, life-changing messages in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs one more time, I would punch him in the face. However, 10 years later, 30-year-old Jeff (Jason Segel) manages to carry an entire movie doing just that, and I found it endearing. Leave it to indie film's Duplass brothers to make something people do that's hugely annoying in real life more tolerable, and even enjoyable, on screen.
I bought The Secret back when Oprah was talking about the Law of Attraction and how it will change your life, and I often correct myself when I say things like "if I ever get a Maserati" to "when I get a Maserati." Jeff Who Lives at Home definitely speaks to moviegoers like me, who, like Jeff, believe that everything happens for a reason, and that life presents the answers to all of your burning questions if you're open enough to listen. Jeff takes that to the extreme, allowing his Cruise Control Life Practice to keep smoking weed in his mother's basement instead of actually doing anything. But Segel is such a lovable gentle giant that I couldn't help but be along for whatever nonsense he gets himself into. In this movie, it all begins with a wrong number (if there is such a thing as a wrong number) with someone demanding to speak to "Kevin." That sets Jeff's wheels turning as he ventures outside to run an errand for his exasperated mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon).
If you think you might have a low tolerance for all the hippie-dippy mumbo jumbo, there's always his brother Pat (Ed Helms) to root for. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Pat's hard heart is buried under cynicism, rudeness and a buttoned-down shirt tucked into a pair of business casual Dockers. In spite of Pat's struggles to avoid Jeff and his childishly optimistic world views, their paths keep crossing and Pat finds himself leaning on Jeff for support while awful things are happening. Back at the office, Sharon is having her day livened up by a secret admirer, coaxing her away from being a wallflower. But what does it all mean?
In the same style they first exhibited in indie hit The Puffy Chair, the Duplass brothers make small movies about small things that feel big in emotion. Here, we're not watching Susan Sarandon play sexy cello or do something racy in a trailer. She's just wrestling with the everyday challenge of being an aging widower with two adult sons she doesn't know what to do with. And their technique of using a series of close-ups without a break refuses to let you stay at arm's length, which makes me glad that I immediately found Jeff sweet, all the way up until the film's uncharacteristically bold climax. Otherwise I would have been using the power of my mind to attract the Maserati so I could race away from the theater.