“Stay pure of heart and you will see the signs. Follow the signs, and you will uncover your destiny.”
And with that opening title card we basically get what this film is all about: a 30 year old man living in his mother’s basement awaiting for a specific sign to discover his destiny while he sits back in his couch smoking weed. This was the Duplass brothers fourth feature film working together as directors, although with a much bigger budget this time around which enabled them to hire well known actors. Their screenplay has its sweet and funny moments, but you can’t help but feel the familiarity of the story. For a film centering on looking for signs and following them, this movie does so in a very predictable and obvious way with stereotypical characters. Jeff, Who Lives at Home also manages to wrap things up in a neat and convenient way so I really didn’t find anything about the story very unique or interesting. As a fan of Shyamalan’s Signs I did enjoy the references Jeff makes towards it and how it basically dictates his own personal life, but I was expecting some surprises along the way.
In the very first scene of the movie we are introduced to Jeff (Jason Segel) and in only a few seconds we know exactly what kind of person he is. He is a man child who hasn’t quite figured out what to do with his life, but he doesn’t seem too worried about it either. He is waiting for the signs to point him to his destiny. When he receives a phone call of someone asking for Kevin he immediately takes it as a sign that he should search for a Kevin instead of just discarding it as a misdialed call. A few minutes later he receives another call, but this time it’s his mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), who is calling him from her office and asking him to go to Home Depot to fix something in the house. Sharon is worried about Jeff, and she wants him to get on track with his life. She asks his brother, Pat (Ed Helms), to encourage him, but he is going through some marital problems with his wife Linda (Judy Greer). Pat isn’t the ideal husband and he doesn’t even consider asking Linda for advice when it comes to big decisions such as buying a brand new Porsche. This of course brings friction to their relationship. On his way to the Home Depot, Jeff sees a young teen wearing a jersey with the name Kevin on the back, so of course he takes it as a sign and follows him. These signs inadvertently lead him to the exact place where his brother Pat is and while the two are catching up they discover Linda is with another man. Could this be the reason why Jeff has been led to his brother? To help him discover if his wife is cheating on him? From this point on a series of casualties ensue.
The film relies on the strong chemistry between Segel and Helms, two very talented and funny actors. They both play characters they’re very familiar and comfortable playing, Segel the childish and naive slacker son, Helms the uptight and career driven husband. The highlight of the film is watching these two great actors interact with each other despite all the schmaltz. The subplot revolving around Susan Sarandon’s character and her secret admirer didn’t really tie up to the story and only seemed to serve as a filler for the feature length time. Judy Greer is also comfortable in her role here, but she doesn’t really get much to do here other than be the victim who her husband never really listens to. Despite some scattered funny moments which can be mostly attributed to the talented cast, the ending felt way too sappy and convenient and ultimately hindered my appreciation of the film. It simply tried to force the underlying message of the movie of destiny and it only added to the overall sentimentality of the film. The cinematography was also distracting at times with too many quick zoom-ins on the characters faces.