Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You

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By now you’ve probably seen the trailer for This Is Where I Leave You or perhaps you’ve read the book by the internationally bestselling author Jonathan Tropper. If you don’t fall into either camps, then let me tell you this, the movie is really good. I mean it is laugh out loud (many, many times), grab a tissue during those bittersweet moments and talk back to the movie screen, good!

I was fortunate to see an early screening with a select group of bloggers this week. As someone who hadn’t read the book, I had only limited knowledge of what the film was about based on the TV commercials.  I knew the film had a stellar cast, I mean, hello, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda!

[infobox]When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, 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. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.[/infobox]



At the beginning of the movie you are introduced to Judd Altman, played by Jason Bateman, who is a radio producer living in New York City. Judd’s comfortable life is turned upside down one afternoon when he finds his wife in bed with his boss. Shortly thereafter, he learns that his father has passed away and so Judd has to return to his childhood home to attend the funeral. Not only that, but he has to sit shiva, which is the Jewish custom of a seven day period of mourning or as Jane Fonda’s character puts it “For the next seven days you are grounded.”

Naturally things gets complicated when you have four siblings under one roof, especially when Judd is keeping his recent separation a secret. When you add the fact that each sibling has their own spouse or partner included in the mix, well life just can’t help but get messier. There is one very cute and funny scene involving the young son of Tina Fey’s character, which just goes to show that “poop happens” at the most unexpected times.

As I had mentioned, this is a dream cast and I’m not just talking about the main characters. This is a deep bench and the supporting cast of Dax Shepard, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn and Timothy Olyphant illustrates the level of comedic and dramatic talent.

Speaking of Rose Byrne’s character, as someone who grew up in the 80’s, there is a great scene involving Rose & Jason Bateman on the ice rink with the INXS song “Never Tear Us Apart” playing in the background. In fact, every single song that played during those ice skating scenes brought me back to that nostalgic time period, even Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”

The tone of the movie is hilarious, bawdy, nostalgic and at times tender. Director Shawn Levy aimed for that sweet spot of where comedy and drama intersect and in my opinion, he nailed it. I think it certainly helped that the screenplay of the film was written by Jonathan Tropper.

Speaking of Jonathan Tropper, after the This Is Where I Leave You screening, we also got to sit down with him for a Q&A session.

When asked about how the character of Judd Altman came about, Jonathan said “It’s about a guy who goes through what he goes through in the first five minutes of the movie. And I just wanted to write about this guy’s downward spiral. And he loses everything and discovers that his whole life was not the perfect life he’d thought it was.”

Not every movie or book can have a picture perfect ending. Life is full of joy, heartache, disappointments AND laughter! This movie does a great job of illustrating that. It also points out that even when your life is upside down, your family will always have your back, even if they are a little bit dysfunctional.

This is Where I Leave You opens in theaters on September 19, 2014.
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I attended a media screening of This Is Where I Leave You. Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. All opinions are my own.

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