With a stellar cast, This is Where I Leave You brings a dramedy that is funny, loveable, and heartfelt at the same time. Jane Fonda is the matriarch of the Altman family and leads the march in this off-beat movie about a dysfunctional family that must stay together for seven days because of their dead father’s last wish.
Though not necessarily Jewish and a self-proclaimed atheist, the deceased head of the Altman family has made his last wish known to his wife, Hillary (Fonda). He wanted his four children to “sit Shiva”, in other words, to stay together under the same roof to mourn him for seven days.
All four children have not been under one roof for some time, and all have some sort of dysfunction going on in their adult lives. They bring that dysfunction to the already prescribed dysfunction of having been raised together by an over-sharing mother and a loving if not prone to being unemotional father.
Judd (Jason Bateman) is having trouble remembering his father’s softer side, and with the recent break-up of his own marriage, he is dealing with some major issues. He meets up with an old high school flame, Penny (Rose Byrne), and it looks as if things might be turning around for him in the relationship department. The focus of the film is on his character as the audience goes on his emotional journey through the fall-out of his marriage (he found his wife in bed with his boss), an unexpected pregnancy, and possible reunion.
Judd’s sister, Wendy (Tina Fey) is in her own loveless marriage with two small kids. She also happens to be pining for her high school sweetheart, Horry (Timothy Olyphant) – who happens to live across the street from the family home. Wendy is Judd’s advice and conscience and these two seem to have a closest bond of all the siblings. They sit on the roof to talk and Wendy foreshadows Judd’s past and future relationships.
The oldest son, Paul, is also having problems. He is resentful that he was the child that has stayed and taken care of the family business. His wife, Annie (Kathryn Hahn) who dated Judd first, is having fertility problems – which lead to all kinds of humiliating problems for Paul.
The youngest and baby of the family is the ‘black sheep’, the happy-go-lucky loser, Philip (Adam Driver). He brings his girlfriend Tracy (Connie Britton) to the funeral. Older and richer than Phillip, their relationship started in therapy when she was his therapist. Underneath the fun-loving attitude is a dark side to Phillip, a Peter Pan character who probably will never grow up. The mom fully admits this and accepts that he is who he is.
With all the kids under the same roof, Hillary (sporting a new boob job) talks of their father and other aspects of their growing up and tries to keep them from leaving (hammering the fact the Shiva was their father’s last wish). The kids take her with loving aplomb, but there is a secret to be told that has to do with the neighbor, Horry’s mother.
I really liked the complicated relationships that were put forth in this movie. This is my kind of movie, and it kept me interested from start to finish. Just simply, I love family drama. The more dysfunctional the family happens to be, the better. And I like movies where the ending is kind of left up to the audience as the case was with this film. If you adhere to happy endings, your mind will process it as such. If not, if you like more reality-based endings, then you might prefer to think that things might not end so neatly and nicely. But that is what life is like, especially families.
Although it failed to please all audiences, I thought this film was well-written and well-paced. If you like movies about relationships, families, adult situations mixed with drama and comedy, this is the movie for you.