Welcome to Redeeming Features. The blog where I (poorly) review movies that are underappreciated, underrated or under the radar, in hopes of convincing you to give them a second chance.
You guys know the band Slipknot? Who am I kidding; everyone is a HUGE fan of Slipknot! But if you aren’t, lemme fill you in some useless information to help set up an even more useless analogy. In Slipknot, there’s like, I don’t know, way too many “musicians.” Some of which, actually musically-inclined (like the lead singer has professional opera training?), play pivotal roles in the musical composition of the band. Others hit kegs with a baseball bat. This week’s actors are kind of like that. Some great, others are not as great, but each, surprisingly enough, is doing something to enhance the tune of the tale. Whether that’s pounding kegs, or pounding their old high school neighbor.
This week, we’re talking about This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY), a dark, light, odd, funny, interesting, and at times, weirdly moving movie about a dysfunctional family who comes together after the death of their father/husband to honor his dying wish – sit in Shiva (even though he was an atheist) and mourn together. And let me just lead with, “I know.” I, too, thought this was yet another addition in a very, very long slew of underwhelming, poorly-balanced all-star cast super flicks. But when I eventually got around to accidentally clicking on it, I was pleasantly surprised. Mostly because it’s just nice to watch someone else writhe in rue for a change…believable or otherwise.
Now, when I say this has an all-star cast, I mean it has every “star” from the last three-to-all years, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Abigail Spencer, and little ole Benny Shwaaa (Ben Schwartz). And weirdly enough, they all work super well together – and while not being related even in the slightest, seem to still (dys)function as a family. Whoever cast this bad boy did a bang up job. And since we have so many actors from so many different recognizable (and unrecognizable) roles, I think it’s best if I do a quick breakdown of each.
Jason Bateman – well, hopefully you guys all know who he is, but if you need a refresher: Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses (redeemed last week), and literally anything in the last decade that asked for an under-the-breath snark machine. And this flick is no different. Bateman plays one of the siblings, dejected and recently f**ked over “nice guy” who always finishes fast.
Tina Fey – again, you guys know these things: Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt, and a lot of other incredibly well-written movies/shows/sketches/speeches/words. However, she’s just acting in this! Fey plays another sibling and mother of two, although she doesn’t get much help from the over-worked, under-aware father.
Jane Fonda – come on, it’s Fonda! Nine to Five, Barbarella, Mickey Avalon’s first self-titled album; Fonda plays the recently widowed mother of the lot/celebrity shrink/writer of Cradle and All, the memoir disclosing every infinitesimal spec of her family’s life.
Adam Driver – most known for his role as Adam on Girls, Driver plays the youngest sibling who hops from girl to girl until he finally lands hip pocket of his beautiful therapist, Connie Britton.
Rose Byrne – known for Neighbors, Insidious; Byrne plays Bateman’s high-school girlfriend who’s still stuck at home, teaching ice skating lessons. Still just as cute as can be, she unfortunately gets caught in the fray of things.
Corey Stoll – known for his role as backstabbing Peter Russo from House of Cards, Stoll plays the oldest sibling, a no-nonsense kinda guy who, while raising the family business has difficulty raising his family business – a.k.a., penis.
Kathryn Hahn – known for Parks and Recreation and Step Brothers, Hahn plays Stoll’s wife and the one on the not-so-receiving end of his ED. She becomes increasingly more frustrated at their inability to reproduce/bang on a timely schedule.
Connie Britton – known for Nashville, American Horror Story, and looking wayyyyy too good for her age, Britton plays the fiancé to be fiancé/psychologist to little brother, Adam. Shocker, she’s way too much woman for him, and he’s five years old.
Timothy Olyphant – best known for playing Josh Duhamel, Olyphant plays the brain-damaged ex to Tina Fey, who she had to leave behind in order to pursue her dream of becoming a middle-class fraud.
Dax Shepard – best known for Idiocracy and surprisingly bagging Kristen Bell, Shepard plays the boss of Bateman, who opens as a fun character, but immediately lets us down by banging Bateman’s wife. And wearing terrible clothes.
Abigail Spencer – while she may not be known for much, she does a pretty great job of playing Bateman’s soon-to-be ex wife/Shepard’s bang buddy. Somehow, she makes you feel bad for her at times, too.
Benny Shwaaa (Ben Schwartz) – best known for Parks and Recreation, House of Lies, and just generally being a singing nut job from College Humor, Shwaaa plays the rabbi destined to bring them together. Unfortunately, he grew up with them and therefore cannot be taken seriously. Thus, the reason they continue to call him by his childhood nickname, Boner.
*unstraps, and takes a nap*
PHEW! Now that all of that’s out of the way, I’m realizing this is way too long. So, let me do my best to wrap it up, while also leaving a little bit to mystery.
TIWILY, while technically a hybrid of rom and com, does a really nice job of setting up some pretty dramatic, powerful moments. Moments you absolutely do not expect. And I think that’s a nice way to encapsulate everything. Sure, there are some super expected parts, but they are far overshadowed by the moments of honest, earnest brevity that hit you like a sucker punch from your younger brother. And I recommend giving it a shot, too.
TL; DR – When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.
Cody Tidmore is a Level Three sketch student at DCH. He’s been watching movies for as long as he can remember. Seeing it all – the good, the bad, even the ugly. And when it comes to annoyingly working movie quotes into regular conversation, he’s the reel deal.