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This is Where I Leave You
by George Sax
Remember TV’s Arrested Development and Jason Bateman’s poor schlub trying to navigate his way through the plots and plotzing of his toxically narcissistic and criminally unreliable Jewish family? Well, that’s what he is again in Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You (and I have no good idea what the title means). This time the dysfunctional Jewish family (the ethnicity is important) is the Altmans of suburban New York.
Bateman is Judd Altman, a New York radio talk-show producer who, on his wife’s birthday, finds her and his boss in his bed chamber in flagrant you-know-what. He’s jobless, wifeless, and sleeping on his couch when his older sis (Tina Fey) calls from the hospital to say their dad has gone to his reward. Mom (a preternaturally preserved Jane Fonda—I think she wears leotards at one point) insists that the family assemble to sit shivah for seven days to honor his wishes, even though the deceased was an atheist.
Mom is quite a package. She’s a best-selling author whose work is based in part on pilfered secrets from sis’ teenage diaries, including sexual ruminations and admissions whose nationally embarrassing distribution she lived down only with great and protracted effort. Mom has also recently had her boobs augmented, and you know Judd is going to be intimately confronted with them sooner or later.
This is not a family that places high value on reticence and boundaries. Not hardly. And there they are, three brothers, a sister, spouses, and at least temporarily significant others, crowded into the Altman home to trade angry best-kept-secret revelations and accusations, and, of course, reach long-delayed conciliations.
Levy’s movie barrels along on a steady supply of crass, crude, scatological and otherwise offensive humor, and it has to be admitted, much of it works in a crazy burlesquing way. Much of the joking is on Judd, of course, and Bateman’s helplessness and ineffectual attempts at restoring reason are a large part of the fun.
What began to grate after awhile—at least for me—was the admixing of attempted sentimentality and poignance with all the farcical vulgarity. One storyline involving a brain-damaged brother—I think he was a brother but I’m not sure—seemed particularly inadvisable.
Naturally, my reservations won’t deter what I expect will be a fairly healthy box office take.
Watch the trailer for This Is Where I Leave You
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