Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011) is another in what has become a popular genre in both mainstream and independent movies -grown men who literally live in their mother’s basement. In fact, the directors of this film, Jay and Mark Duplass have already covered this territory in one of their prior films, Cyrus. Fortunately, they manage to create original and compelling characters in both films and go beyond the mere slapstick and vulgar humor of Hollywood versions of man-boys, such as Stepbrothers.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home may not even be the ideal title for this movie, as it’s more about coincidences and synchronicities (another popular topic in movies) than about an adult still living at home. This is made explicit right from the first scene as Jeff (Jason Segel) raves about how much he loves the movie Signs.
Jeff, of course, lives his entire, apparently aimless life following signs. The entire film takes place in a single day as Jeff follows one “sign” after another. It all starts with a wrong number where someone asks for “Kevin.” This leads to Jeff getting mugged, intervening in his brother Pat’s (Ed Helms) marital problems and eventually playing a crucial role in a life-and-death situation.
Susan Sarandon also has a role as Jeff and Pat’s mother who is dealing with an existential crisis of her own that parallels her sons’ situations.
I have some fascination with signs (though I’m not a big Shyamalan fan, at least post Sixth Sense), so I mostly enjoyed this offbeat and often funny look at someone who follows them with a passion. On the other hand, Jeff, Who Lives at Home definitely tests our credibility as it wraps everything up in an unbelievable, almost TV movie type manner.
All in all, however, I appreciated the questions posed by Jeff, Who Lives at Home and enjoyed the performances and the quirkiness it displayed for most of the journey. It’s a short film, less than 90 minutes but the length feels about right.
I think a more ambiguous ending would have been more appropriate, as in real life signs (at least metaphorical ones) seldom point things out in a manner as concrete as this movie suggests.