This is Where it Left Me
“This Is Where I Leave You” is Shawn Levy’s comedy drama centered on Judd Altman, played by the go-to good guy actor (Jason Bateman). The story starts with Judd finding his wife canoodling with his meathead boss right before discovering his father has passed away. Grieving the loss of his father, he returns home to his dysfunctional family to fulfill his father’s last dying wish: for the family to sit Shiva (a Jewish mourning tradition where one must sit in low chairs for seven days of grieving). Judd and his siblings all gather under the same roof to help each other get through the loss of their father as well as support each other in their individual tribulations.
The cast of well-established comedians delivers the punch lines between the highly emotional scenes. The mother, Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda), is a therapist whose best-selling book informed the readers of her children’s sexual developmenta la Leonard’s mother on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Tina Fey plays her normal snarky, determined self as Wendy Altman, the sister that Judd confides in the most about his debacle. Paul Altman (Corey Stroll), the eldest brother, married Annie Altman, one of Judd’s ex-girlfriends; the couple is unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant. Adam Driver (of HBO’s “Girls”) assumes a similar role as Phillip Altman, the youngest child who has yet to garner any real life responsibility and laughs off his family’s criticisms.
The film follows the classic dysfunctional family dynamic. The Altmans are more like the Fockers and nothing like the Cleavers. Not straying too far from what is portrayed in most sitcoms these days, the family represents the opposite of the nuclear family. The mother is the breadwinner; the late father was only successful in his business due to his wife’s book royalties.
While the film is heartwarming and dramatic, it isn’t revolutionary. The plot takes clichéd twists and turn that the viewer can easily predict. There aren’t any surprises when it comes to character developments and at times they seem a bit rushed.
Regardless of the film taking the “road more often travelled” (a mantra that the characters sought to avoid), it’s hard not to root for Judd to persevere against all the obstacles hurdled in his direction. He’s clearly the character we are supposed to empathize with and his realizations in the film are what bring refreshing nuances to an otherwise predictable plot.
Like many other movies in the past two years, “This Is Where I Leave You” is yet another that decided not to have the protagonist live happily ever after with all the interpersonal relationships tied up in neat little boxes. Even with the clear soap opera tendencies, this film concluded with a realistic depiction of a family on an emotional roller coaster. Jonathon Tropper, author of the novel and film adaptation, didn’t end the movie with Judd or Wendy having any closure with their love lives because the whole point is that closure is the luxury of a rom-com, and not an accurate representation of human experience.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’re a fan of the talented cast and can overlook the clichés of the family dramedy genre.