Friday, April 06, 2012

"Jeff, Who Lives at Home": I'm reminded of my own vulnerabilities


Perhaps the Duplass brothers (Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass) are a “mini Coen Brothers” making mini indie films, all of them situation comedies developing the interpersonal relationships that grow out of trivial problems. They particularly like to explore the idea of assertiveness.  That trend certainly continues with their new low-budget comedy, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." Note the nonrestrictive modifier clause in the title. 

In this film, they don’t appear, but the actors who play the two brothers resemble them. Jeff (Jason Segel) is a bit slow, maybe a little autistic, but lives in his Mom’s basement as a slacker, doing bong hits.  His older brother Pat (Ed Helms) has a job (managing a Hooters), a wife and an apartment, but seems stuck.  On her birthday, Jeff’s mom (Susan Sarandon) calls Jeff from her telemarketing job and orders him to get out of the house on the bus, find a part at the Home Depot and fix a shutter, or move out.   

Now Jeff has this “philosophy of life” that every little clue has a meaning, so he takes himself seriously;  and when he encounters an anagram on the word “Kevin”, he starts following people and trucks with the letters from the word on it.  Pretty soon he encounters his brother, and the pair wind up stalking Pat’s possibly adulterous wife.  In the meantime, mom has to deal with an unknown (lesbian) workplace admirer. The whole movie winds up with a climax on the causeway to New Orleans, where Jeff proves he can play hero.
Most of the film is shot in Baton Rouge, LA, downtown, and I recognize a lot of it from a 2006 trip. Post-Katrina Louisiana is getting aggressive in attracting filmmakers.  

There’s a little bit of Jeff  (and the Duplass brothers) in me.  In 1986, when on jury duty “voir dire” in Dallas, another prospective juror, dressed in hippy clothes, caught my eye, and suddenly he came up to me and complained that I was following him.  Nothing came of it.  The next day, I found out from the lawyers that my presence on the jury, because of my knowledge of AIDS from being a buddy (as I had described in the questioning) helped the parties in the malpractice suit settle quickly.

I did "move out" and leave home for my first job at 26 after graduate school and the Army.  But I "lived at home" after 2003, looking after my own mother (until her passing in 2010).  It was a humbling experience. 

 I had a coworker in operations in Dallas in the 1980s who had a "philosophy of life".  One day over lunch he explained it to me, as expressed in a short story about mutants invading Lake Murray in Oklahoma. Another little movie? 

The official site (from Indian Paintbrush and Paramount Vantage) is here


Mark Duplass’s “Humpday” is reviewed here July 25, 2009. The brothers’ “Baghead” is reviewed Aug. 25, 2008. “The Puffy Chair” is on “doaskdotell.com/movies”.

Baton Rouge, LA skyline picture, Wikipedia attribution link 

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