'This Is Where I Leave You'
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Timothy Olyphant
Sometimes a great cast and a good premise isn't good enough to anchor a movie because the director mucks things up. The new, faux indie comedy-drama 'This Is Where I Leave You' (TIWILY) falls into this unfortunate category of modern movies.
This Is Where I Leave You has many of the familiar themes found in Shawn Levy’s previous movies
The film is directed by Shawn Levy, who's made a career out of mediocre ensemble family comedy dramas and kiddie flicks, including Cheaper by the Dozen, the Night at the Museum movies, the Pink Panther remake, and even an Ashton Kutcher comedy. None of those films are exceptional on any level, yet most of them are box office bonanzas. Safe to say, his biggest talent isn't in the filmmaking process itself, but in the fact that he manages to keep rounding up big casts, convincing studios to give him money, and also the American audience to watch his movies.
TIWILY has many of the familiar themes found in his previous movies — a big star cast, an 'indie' flavor with commercial trappings, a dysfunctional family and the comedic layers surrounding the family. The film stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Timothy Oliphant and a host of others in familiar territory of a funeral. Jane Fonda is a family matriarch whose husband passes away, but she doesn't really nurse her wounds. At the funeral gathering, the dysfunctional family does, well, dysfunctional things like questioning marriage choices and career choices, and sleeping with other people.
That plot would have still worked had the jokes and the bickering and the conflicts actually been interesting and funny. Either the humour is juvenile or the drama too purile, and the major part of the film tries to offer both at the same time. The constant change in tone, too, is rather jarring.
It doesn't help that the ensemble cast struggles to do or say anything interesting. Even the great Tina Fey is reduced to a lumbering bore, something that was previously unheard of. The problem is the characters are either idiots or unlikable snobs — and the actors don't really do anything to make them likable despite their apparent lousiness. The film also makes the mistake of trying to make you sympathise with the characters despite their overall horribleness. And when you have a movie filled with unlikable people in a rather boring setup, it becomes rather problematic to keep your interest levels up.
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