The dramatic comedy This is Where I Leave You is directed by Shawn Levy, and based on the hilarious and poignant best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper. It features a starring ensemble cast including Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman (Arrested Development); Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Tina Fey (30 Rock); and two-time Oscar (R) winner, multiple Golden Globe honoree and 2013 Emmy Award nominee Jane Fonda (Klute, Coming Home, HBO’s The Newsroom).
An estranged family finds themselves brought together following the death of the family patriarch, where they’re forced to face their issues. This basic concept describes both last year’s August: Osage County and the just-released This Is Where I Leave You, but how the films handle that description vary wildly. Thanks in large part to a knockout ensemble, Shawn Levy brings this adaptation of the book to the screen with a blend of humor and heart.
Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is dealing with the aftermath of discovering that his wife and boss were having an affair when sister Wendy (Tina Fey) informs him that their father has passed. As his dying wish, he requested that the entire family sit shiva, in spite of the fact that he was an atheist and their mother (Jane Fonda) isn’t Jewish. With that, the Altman siblings – also including serious older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and wild child Philip (Adam Driver) – fill the Altman family home with their respective loved ones. As the week progresses, each of the family members is forced to deal with issues in their lives and with each other.
In adapting any book, more often than not, material gets condensed to fit a particular runtime. Still, with the amount of characters involved here, I’m not sure why this wasn’t pushed closer to the two-hour mark. As the character introducing us to the family, Judd gets more than his fair share of screen time, and we get a solid grasp of the various issues he’s dealing with here. Other characters, though, are begging for more attention – none more so than Wendy, whose various issues (particularly her past with an ex-boyfriend) aren’t given enough room here.
Fortunately, the cast is supremely talented, and most are used effectively. Adam Driver, in particular, steals the show with his stereotypical youngest-child mentality, and Connie Britton gets some of the most heart-wrenching moments as Philip’s older girlfriend who’s all too aware that their relationship is temporary.
I’d like to see an extended version of this film, because I think there’s room for sketching out other characters aside from Judd – aside from wanting more Wendy, I do feel like Corey Stoll and especially Kathryn Hahn aren’t used nearly enough. But in terms of the final product, there are worse things than leaving the audience wanting more.
As part of the film’s climax, a few characters come out. The subject matter is dealt with in a relatable, explained manner.