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Feature


Starring Jason Segel ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall, TV's How I Met Your Mother), Ed Helms ( Hangover I & II) and Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the story of one man's hilarious search for the meaning of life. As a slacker Jeff stumbles toward enlightenment, he uncovers answers to his nagging family's problems. Jeff has no idea where he's going but when he finally gets there, he might just find out what it's all about. (From the Paramount synopsis)

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home
I'm not really a big fan of the mumblecore movement. In theory, the idea of using amateur actors and naturalistic dialogue sounds like a great challenge for filmmakers. There's an ideal there, like the Dogme 95 pact, but the majority of mumblecore films I've seen have failed to use the genre's trademarks to enhance their stories and characters in any way. The Duplass brothers have been the sole exception, using the style in a more playful way and actually trying to tell stories. The Puffy Chair felt fresh and exciting for independent cinema, and Baghead managed to play with horror genre conventions and be pretty funny on a shoestring budget. Cyrus saw them working with more of a budget and some bigger stars, but they kept the spirit of their earlier efforts intact. I put off seeing Jeff, Who Lives at Home in theaters, despite being a fan of the directors. I'm not sure why I did, but I'm pretty sure I was just tired of man-child movies. Fortunately, despite the title, this movie doesn't focus on arrested development much at all.

The film starts off with an impassioned monologue from Jeff about the movie Signs. It quickly becomes evident that Jeff lives his life by the message of that movie: all this randomness and chaos is leading to a perfect moment where everything will make sense. He's so sincere that his belief in cosmic importance is almost contagious. He receives a phone call from an aggressive man looking for someone named Kevin. Jeff tells him Kevin doesn't live there, and the psychotic man on the phone goes off on him, ending the call with "Remember the name Kevin". Such simple words might as well be a mission from God when landing on Jeff's ears. Jeff's mom gives him one task to carry out while she is at work for the day: go buy some wood glue and fix the shutter. It's enough to get Jeff out of the house, but when he spots a man on the bus with "Kevin" on the back of his jersey, he trails him and begins a wild goose chase in search of meaning.

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Jeff's story isn't the only one in this movie. His brother, played by Ed Helms, is in a struggling marriage. His wife is working to save money, but he buys a Porsche without consulting her which causes her to leave. He and Jeff's stories intersect throughout the one day that the movie takes place during, and they track down his wife as she seemingly makes plans to cheat on him. Susan Sarandon has a subplot of her own in her work office. In a sea of monotonous cubicles, she begins receiving messages on her computer from a secret admirer in her office. The prospective romance at this stage in her life is exhilarating to her. These three plots all take place in the same family of people who are essentially good, but have lost their way in life after a tragic family event. It's obvious the Duplass brothers have compassion for their characters, no matter how naive and stupid their decisions get, and it rubs off on the viewer. It all culminates in a climactic scene that I thought worked brilliantly to tie everything together. Some will call it too convenient or contrived, but I think they'd be missing the point.

The ingredients of Jeff, Who Lives at Home are all familiar. We've seen stuff like it before. But presented on a small, indie scale, it makes the ideas feel bigger and more revelatory than they would in glossy blockbusters. Take Primer for example. While spiritually a very different film, both film's sense of importance are heightened by their modest, low-budget approach. The Duplass brother's are very capable directors, and they mix drama and humour as gracefully as any other writers working today. Though the movie is often pretty serious, it is at times achingly funny. If I had one thing to complain about it's the Duplass brother's use of zooms. It's something they did with Cyrus, where the camera just zooms in and out for no apparent reason, without accentuating any lines from the script or anything happening in the scene. It isn't done to a nauseating extent, but it can be very distracting.

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Video


This is a really strong 1080p video transfer from Paramount. The digital source from the Red One MX camera made it to the Blu-ray format without any hiccups. Black levels are reference level. Colour is fantastic but can occasionally look a bit faded, as the movie has that warm comedy hue that drowns out some of the richer shades. That's entirely a creative choice though. Detail is strong, but thanks to soft lighting the image can look soft from time to time, but I like the smooth digital look of it. It works. Even at those times I never noticed any compression artefacts or faults on the part of the Blu-ray. This isn't a movie with a ton of visual flair or a range of colors that will show off your set, but the integrity of the director's work is completely upheld by the Blu-ray presentation.

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is surprisingly immersing given the indie presentation of the film. There's plenty of ambient noise in the surround channels, like passing traffic or the chatter of a restaurant. The original music from Michael Andrews ( Donnie Darko, Bridesmaids) is playful, filled with what sounds like xylophones and keyboard playing that dynamically fill the entire sound space; even the rear channels from time to time. The LFE channel isn't used much, but there are a couple sequences where it makes itself known. Some of the music is more ambient in quieter parts of the film, and the sound permeates throughout the room nicely. No need to worry about the "mumble" part of mumblecore. The dialogue, even the most soft-spoken words, is clear and easy to interpret. This is an all around impressive audio presentation that is faithful to the material and subtly effective.

Extras


Just a code for an Ultraviolet digital copy. There are no extras on the disc.

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Overall


I often watch movies that require me to suspend my disbelief, but it is rare to come across a film that makes me want to. Jeff, Who Lives at Home isn't completely original or especially clever, but the lovingly written characters and the trio of great leading performances charmed me to an extent where I could overlook its small flaws with ease. Paramount disappoints in the extras department, but the AV presentation of the film is practically flawless.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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