Dude, Where’s My Self?
Heard this one before? Jeff is a run-of-the-mill thirty-something pothead slacker still living in his mom’s basement. Played by everybody’s likeable giant, Jason Segel, Jeff is lethargic, unemployed, and probably owns only one sweater–which, of course, he wears every day. He wears this sweater to sit on the couch, smoke weed and watch infomercials, his head perpetually tilted to the side like a baffled puppy. Still in mourning from his father’s death during his adolescence, Jeff ponders what his purpose is in life. We ponder whether there’s any life left in this all-too-familiar movie genre. The sweater? Sweaters are lucky. They don’t have to think.
The story opens with Jeff (on the toilet) intimating to a tape recorder his thoughts on the M. Night Shyamalan movie, Signs. The lesson that he takes from Signs is that seemingly unimportant details all lead to some “perfect moment.” At the conclusion of this particular scene, if you’re the hopeful sort, you might expect an engaging drama that deals with Jeff’s existential issues. It’d be helpful to lower your expectations.
Jeff Who Lives At Home is persistent in its attempts to be a story about the interconnectedness of life. When Jeff receives a wrong-number phone call for a person named Kevin, he suddenly commits to the idea that all things are fated to happen. Inspired to hunt down the metaphysical construct that is “Kevin,” Jeff and the film embark on A Journey. While on an errand assigned to him by his mother (Susan Sarandon) to pick up some wood glue (get it, glue?), the only thing that registers in one-track Jeff-vision is “Kevin.”
Desperate to validate this interconnectedness theory, Jeff blindly follows every Kevin he can spot. And by doing so, surprise, he is somehow always brought to exactly where the script needs him.
After stalking an elusive basketball player with “Kevin” on his jersey, Jeff ends up walking by a Hooters restaurant where his brother, Pat (Ed Helms), just happens to be on the phone with their mother who is expressing her concern about (guess who?) Jeff. In another scene, after a heated argument with Pat, Jeff sees a candy truck bearing the name “Kevin.” Hopping on the back of the truck takes Jeff to the hotel where Pat happens to be snooping on his wife who is about to have an affair.
Like many in the audience, I suspect, Pat is stubbornly resistant to his younger brother’s worldview. He’s also a CEO wannabe who pretends he’s busy with meetings when he’s instead eating wings at Hooters. He takes the money he and his wife were saving to buy a house and buys a Porsche. Overall, he is remarkably insensitive to his wife, played by Judy Greer of The Descendants, who must be getting worried about being typecast as the Troubled Wife.
The bottom line? Jeff Who Lives At Home is an average, sometimes pleasant, film. Aside from another wonderful and heartbreaking performance by Judy Greer and an amusing subplot involving Susan Sarandon’s character, there’s nothing here to write home about. Those responsible for this masterpiece of misdirection, the Duplass brothers, should box up the sweater and mail it to Mr. Shyamalan.