By Inspector Spacetime
I hate the whole #FirstWorldProblems meme. For every funny-despite-itself observation, there are 10 more that are glib, smug and/or racist. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed Jeff Who Lives at Home, a low-budget, low-key release which could easily have been subtitled First World Problems: The Movie.
Jason Segal plays Baton Rouge native Jeff, a shiftless 30-something who, in his aggressive naiveté, comes across as a less historically fortuitous version of Forrest Gump. Jeff lives at home with his mother and spends his days getting high and petulantly searching for meaning in his life. Many people will know someone like Jeff in real life; most will actively go out of their way to avoid them. The trouble with Jeff Who Lives at Home is that the audience is expected to identify with and even root for such a character. This, when even Jeff’s own mother (played by Susan Sarandon) finds him utterly exasperating.
Rather than providing some much-needed perspective, however, she quickly becomes caught up in her own ludicrous sub-plot involving a character that amounts to the pseudo-lesbian cubical drone version of Bagger Vance, leaving Jeff free to wander the city in search of meaning.
Ostensibly, Jeff is looking for Kevin after getting a call from a wrong-number. His wanderings take him into the orbit of his estranged brother, Pat (Ed Helms) who is in the midst of his own personal crisis.
Playing against type, Helms’s character is refreshing for at least being deliberately unlikeable, rather than just insufferable by default. Not that it makes it more enjoyable to watch him and Jeff bumble their way through one low-key adventure after another, but at least it shows some sort of awareness on the part of the filmmakers.
Ultimately, the film’s determined navel-gazing would be mildly tolerable if it at least had the courage of its convictions. But it undercuts itself with a contrived finale that attempts to weave all its non-plot threads into a coherent whole, after spending most of its running-time passive-aggressively asserting that such endeavours are for suckers.
I’m not entirely sure about the search for meaning, but watching Jeff Who Lives at Home certainly is.
A pop-culture obsessive armed with lasers and a carefully chosen turn-of-phrase. The Inspector has spent years developing an advanced system whereby only the finest movies, TV shows, books and events are able to evade his carefully-calibrated sensors. Those that make it through will be elevated, celebrated, venerated, and generally enthused about online. Those that don’t will be incinerated.