Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a heart-warming film from mumblecore directors Jay and Mark Duplass. Jason Segel (Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) stars as Jeff, a thirty year old slacker who lives with his mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Jeff has a cosmically karmic outlook on life; he believes that everything in the universe is connected, everything happens for a reason and if you can learn to read the signs, you will discover your life’s purpose.
The film takes place over the course of one day. Sitting at home with nothing much to do but ponder the universe, Jeff suddenly receives a phone call from a man looking for Kevin. It’s a wrong number – but, in Jeff’s universe, there is no such thing as a wrong number. While he is wondering what the significance of the name Kevin could be, Jeff’s mother calls to send him on a small errand (picking up some wood glue to repair a door). On the bus on his way to buy the glue, Jeff spots a man with the name Kevin sewn onto the back of his t-shirt. Taking this as a sign from the cosmos, Jeff decides to follow Kevin – and so begins a journey of random coincidence and fortuitous fate that may lead Jeff to discovering the true meaning of his life.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s brother Pat (Ed Helms) is having marital troubles. After randomly meeting up with Jeff on his travels, the brothers spot Pat’s wife Linda (Judy Greer) in a restaurant with another man, leading Pat to the conclusion that she is cheating on him. Jeff takes some time out from his Kevin-hunt to help Jeff discover what is really going on. Sharon is also having an eventful day at the office; a secret admirer sends her cryptic messages, which prompts her to rethink her situation in life.
Relatively short at only 83 minutes long, Jeff is an understated but cheerful comedy which is more likely to make you think than to make you laugh. It is reminiscent of other less whacky and more subtle US comedies such as Little Miss Sunshine, in which the humour is derived from real situations and emotions (however unlikely those situations may be). Although the film revolves around Segel’s performance as Jeff, the story is really about the family as a whole, coming to terms with their unresolved issues surrounding Jeff and Pat’s father, who died when they were teenagers.
Jeff, Pat, Linda and Sharon all go on important emotional journeys during the film, before finally syncing up at the end in what could be a serendipitous coincidence, or (as Jeff would have us believe) the hand of fate. A different kind of comedy film, Jeff is poignant and thought-provoking while also managing to crack the odd joke – but, it all falls a little bit flat. Somehow, the correct balance between comedy and brevity is never quite achieved, and the viewer is left feeling that they have seen an intriguing and likable film which has unfortunately not been taken to its full potential, nor said anything truly original or insightful.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a sweet film with an endearing message which will certainly entertain for an hour and a half, but it leaves much to be desired in the comedy stakes and will not stay with the viewer for very long once they walk out of the cinema.
Best performance: Ed Helms as Pat.
Best line: Jeff – ‘This Porsche is tiny.’
Pat – ‘This Porsche is normal-sized. You’re a sasquatch.’