'This Is Where I Leave You' (Blu-ray+DVD)
(Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, et al / Blu ray + DVD / R / 2014 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: When their father passes away, four grown siblings 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.
Blu ray Verdict: From the novel by Jonathan Tropper, 'This is Where I Leave You' is the story of how a dysfunctional family gets together for a week to conduct the Jewish ritual of sitting Shiva for seven days after the passing of their father, for whom this was his dying wish. Judd, played by Jason Bateman, is fresh off the shocking revelation that his wife has been cheating on him with his boss, while his 3 siblings are wonderful mess of their own problems.
The mother, played by Jane Fonda, is an over sharing woman who published a book over 25 years earlier about their childhoods and their family secrets. For her, nothing is secret but for the adult children, the book stands as an obvious lasting scar.
After having read all of Jonathan Tropper's novels, it is hard to avoid the thought that they seem to have been written for the screen. His dialog, his wisdom, his humor and outrageous situations have always seemed destined to be made into films. When I saw that This is Where I Leave You was to become a film, I knew that if nothing else, it would reflect many of the same elements that make his fiction so much fun.
What I guess I didn't count on was the fact that while this is a very solid movie, it still exposes the difficulty of adaptation. Much of the wisdom and humor of the book must be conveyed in a series of one on one conversations between characters, which, after a while start to feel a little exhausting. Tropper, who did the screenplay himself, chose to stay away from doing flashbacks to convey back story, hoping to work the relevant information into the plot.
It is not a bad choice, but it does deprive the audience of some of the information that we would like to know: like what exactly happened to neighbor/semi-adopted child Harry that caused him to be brain damaged? It is referenced but never fully explained, which would seem important because of the apparent role the Tina Fey character had in it. I can only think that maybe some bit of dialog somewhere was cut out of the final edit. The bit at the beginning with the birthday cake was underplayed in comparison to what happened in the book—probably not a terrible choice, though I might have enjoyed seeing the whole sequence end with something more explosive.
Still, 'This Is Where I Leave You' had some great moments and the story and performances carried the day. Jason Bateman as Judd is a great everyman; Adam Driver wins an MVP for his role as the goof-up brother, Phillip; Corey Stoll as Paul, the brother who holds down the fort for the others yet has his manhood challenged at every turn; Kathryn Hahn as Judd's Ex and Paul's Current (awkward!); Jane Fonda is convincing as the overbearing mother; Tina Fey as the alcoholic sister; Rose Byrne as Judd's hometown love interest, Penny Moore and Connie Britton as the goof-up brother's older woman - all perform the admirable job of making this rather dark comedy enjoyable. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
- The Gospel According To Rabbi Boner
- Points Of Departure
- Deleted & Extended Scenes
- The Narrative Voice: A Discussion with Shawn Levy and Jonathan Tropper
- The Narrative Voice: A Commentary with Shawn Levy and Jonathan Tropper