MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey
The dysfunctional family “major event” film has become a bit of a cliché over the years. The filmmakers first find a reason to bring a bunch of characters together – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, a wedding or a funeral (or even Four Weddings and a Funeral, if you want to go big) – and then wait for all of the crazy permutations of interpersonal conflict to ensue. Last year’s August: Osage County used cancer as a motivation for reunion, with predictably dour results.
Sometimes one holiday weekend is a few days too short. This Is Where I Leave You (based on a novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay) uses the last request of a deceased patriarch as a gimmick to bring the kids back home for a full week. Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda) informs her children that dear old dad’s (a non-practicing Jew) deathbed wish was for the family to sit Shiva – depicted in the film as spending a week at home sitting in special chairs while friends and family visit for a weeklong time of mourning following the funeral. Or, to put it in simple turns, Mom tells them “For the next seven days, you’re all grounded.”
Since the filmmakers inexplicably decided to cast Fonda, a Gentile, as the mother, the last name of the family has been changed from Foxman to Altman. Mom’s a nonbeliever in God, a therapist and the author of a bestselling parenting book called “Cradle and All” in which every detail of his children’s past, from bedwetting to masturbation, was worked into the text. Ha. Ha. No wonder her kids are so messed up!
Grief and loss are so poorly represented in this film, when touching scenes of remembrance do make an appearance, they come off as phony. Which is too bad, really, since the whole movie is filled with unbelievable contrivance. Judd (Bateman) is divorcing his wife (Abigail Spencer) after discovering that she is committing adultery with his boss (Dax Shepherd), which leads to him quitting his job, as well. His sister Wendy (Fey) is married to a workaholic (who leaves early in the film to go back to work – what a cad!) who still carrys a torch for Horry (Timothy Oliphant), her high school boyfriend, who suffered permanent brain injury following a car crash. Brother Paul (Corey Stoll) is the responsible son who stayed at home to help dad run the hardware store. Paul and his wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn) are trying to conceive a baby and having little luck (did I mention that Alice is Judd’s old girlfriend?). And finally, there’s Phillip (Adam Driver), the prodigal son who left home to sow wild oats, returning with his older girlfriend (Connie Britton) who is also a therapist, like mom. And there’s even more that the space of this brief review can’t cover. The book reads like a lazy TV sitcom; the movie plays like one.
The big take away from this film is that you will realize that your wacky family isn’t that bad, after all, and that your faith in God is more mature than you ever realized. You might call it discomfort food.
Just for fun, during a bargain matinee, wait for a time midway through the film when you have tired of everything on screen to turn toward the audience and shout: “This is where I leave!” and then walk out. Guaranteed laughter.
One halo: Some decent acting from a talented cast makes this film mildly entertaining.
Three pitchforks: Marital infidelity, pervasive casual swearing, marijuana and alcohol use, nudity and sexual activity, with more than a little disregard for religion.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH.
near the Akron-Canton airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW ·
North Canton, OH 44720
Toll Free: 800-831-3972
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
©2016 EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.