This Is Where I Leave You is over the top and out of this world wild, with almost no redeemable characters to ground the story.
What could have been a realistic storytelling of a dysfunctional family turns into a game of “How much more can we shock the audience?” Having not read Jonathan Tropper’s novel myself, I can’t be certain how similar the movie is to the book, but I can guess it’s on par with the novel, since Tropper adapted the screenplay himself. Tropper’s screenplay is so formulaic, with several underdeveloped plot lines, that perhaps only a fan of the novel could understand.
When their father passes away, four siblings return to their childhood home to stay with their grieving mother, Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda), for a week. Judd (Jason Bateman) has just found out that his wife (Abigail Spencer) has been cheating on him with his boss (Dax Shepard); Wendy (Tina Fey) is dealing with raising two young children while her husband (Aaron Lazar) is always working; Paul (Corey Stoll) is struggling with having a baby with his wife (Kathryn Hahn); and the youngest and wildest sibling Phillip (Adam Driver) can’t hold a job and is currently being taken care of by his older girlfriend (Connie Britton).
Forced to be under the same roof for one week, the Altmans try to work on reconnecting as a family, even though relationships from the past and present continuously intervene, resulting in more problems than this family needs.
Directed by Shawn Levy (2013’s The Internship), This Is Where I Leave You may be one of the best casts of the year, but the storytelling drowns out the talent and even makes exceptional actors look ordinary. Jason Bateman and Tina Fey have some fun moments as brother and sister, but Corey Stall and Adam Driver seem a bit out of place. Connie Britton is atrociously underused as Adam’s psychiatrist older girlfriend, and Rose Byrne is only used as a new love interest for Jason Bateman, ringing in a massive waste of talent from two spectacular actresses. Timothy Olyphant is also underused as Tina’s ex-boyfriend, who continues to suffer from a brain injury caused by a car accident, and their storyline felt manipulative.
By the time the climatic scene rolls around, which feels like an eternity since the film started, something occurs that probably caused me to do the biggest eye-roll while watching a film this year. At this point, the movie is no longer funny and cheapens the few decent scenes near the beginning.
Though the film contains some exceptional talent, it barely has any moments that feel genuine, even though the actors are giving it their all to make it work. This Is Where I Leave You feels too familiar, which makes it all the more dragged out and dull. There’s only so much of Jane Fonda’s breasts popping out and potty humor jokes that one can take in a 100-minute-long period.