TIFF 2014: This Is Where I Leave You

Based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, director Shawn Levy has assembled an all-star cast for the film adaptation of ­ This Is Where I Leave You.  A death in the family reunites a dysfunctional family for a week of mourning, secrets, and healing in this charming and reaffirming film about the importance of family no matter how strained and flawed their relationships may be.

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After finding out his wife has been cheating on him, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) finds his life falling apart.  To add to his mounting problems, he finds out his father has died and must return home to be with his family.  His mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) tells him and his siblings Wendy, Phillip, and Paul (Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll respectively), that their father’s dying wish was for them to sit Shiva which means they must all be together under one roof for one week, something they haven’t done in a long time.  Past mistakes soon arise and it becomes clear that everyone has their own problems that need resolving.  They each must face their unhappiness and disappointments in their life and it becomes a time not just for mourning their father and husband but to heal themselves, find fulfillment, and find strength as a closer family.

When a cast of actors such as this come together, you’re bound to have extremely comedic moments.  The film actually ends up being quite funny and the material given to these actors plays well to their strengths.  The entire ensemble cast is cohesive and their ability to play off each other is the strongest element of the film.  There is an authenticity and universality to these characters that allows the audience to find themselves and their families in this story.

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Even though this film can be considered typical Hollywood “fluff”, it still contains several very poignant moments of emotional sincerity, aided by the accompanying soundtrack.  The song selections very much reflect the moments and enhance the authenticity.

The film gives the audience a comforting and heart-warming feeling but it is your typical safe and predictable film that appeals to broad audiences.  It’s an enjoyable piece of entertainment but it’s not much more than a fun way to spend a couple of hours escaping from our own lives.  This film is on par with the director’s other comedy films and for those who are fans of Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, this compares to their recent films.  That being said, if you know what to expect going into the film, it’s still a satisfying experience.

 

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