Published Sep 23, 2011Never before have I heard such an impassioned examination of the message behind M. Night Shyamalan's shark-jumping third film, Signs.
To begin the Duplass brothers' highest profile picture to date, Jeff (Jason Segel) enthusiastically makes his case that signs are everywhere, lighting the path of destiny. He's dictating his stoned musing into a handheld tape recorder while taking a dump.
Hitting the bong and being tempted by infomercials promising kismet, Jeff receives a random phone call for a guy named Kevin, who doesn't live there. From this moment on, Jeff, as well as the viewer, will be trying to figure out how this "sign" figures into the destiny of a 30-year-old slacker still living in his mother's basement and his insecure poseur-douche older brother, Pat (Ed Helms, The Hangover).
Pat's the kind of guy who buys a Porsche without talking to his wife, Linda (Judy Greer, Arrested Development), first when they're supposed to be saving for a house, then tries to argue that it'll add much needed sizzle to their relationship. Jeff runs into Pat by happenstance after getting sidetracked by the "Kevin" question while running an errand for their mother (Susan Sarandon). An interconnected chain of events unfolds, with questions of fidelity weighed against attentiveness, companionship against sexuality and action against inaction.
The Duplass brothers have ditched the awkward mumblecore they cut their teeth on to make an upbeat, direct dramedy. It has all the warmth and warty humanity that made previous efforts tick, but features more widely relatable scenarios. There's still a great deal of intimate handheld camera work and jumpy zooms, but the directors have become more comfortable with staging shots.
With his amiable everyman charm, Jason Segel is perfectly cast as Jeff and Ed Helms deliveries one of his strongest performances, as a man who really doesn't realize how far up his ass his head is. Likewise, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon are in fine form, each capably portraying complex emotional conflict.
It's not going to shake anyone's foundations, but Jeff, Who Lives at Home is an honest, moving and charming look at how while we have to work on our lives piece by piece, it helps to stay attuned to the cues of our surroundings. (Paramount)