Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You

thisiswhereileaveyou

If you’ve always wanted to know the answer to the question, “Can Hollywood make a movie that’s depressing from start to finish that people will still show up to see?”, it seems like This Is Where I Leave You has given us a resounding “YES.”

This book-turned-dramedy, based around four adult siblings who have to spend seven days essentially under house arrest in their childhood home after their father dies and grounds them as his last wish, was made for about $20 million and has already grossed over $22 million at the box office over its first two weeks in theaters.

Depressing might be too general of a description and one that turns people off. Maybe a better way to frame this movie is to say it makes a concerted effort not to give any of its story lines a happy ending just for the sake of it being a movie (where, generally, people want to see happy endings or at the very least clear-cut resolutions).

There’s a lot of raw human emotion, uncomfortable arguments and hurt feelings.

BUT IT’S FUNNY!

The humor comes specifically from these four siblings who want nothing to do with each other and have pretty much neglected one another over the past decade.

Here are the four siblings, in a nutshell:

  • Judd: The main character who has tried to plan out his life so it would be perfect and uncomplicated. The movie begins with him discovering his wife is cheating on him with his boss.
  • Wendy: The one daughter among the siblings. She’s married with two kids, but it turns out her husband’s an asshole and she’s still hung up on her ex-boyfriend that she ditched years ago.
  • Paul: The tough guy of the group who runs the family business and has a bat-shit crazy wife who will stop at nothing to get pregnant.
  • Phillip: The baby of the family who has grown up to be….a grown-up baby! He’s a womanizer, irresponsible, always expecting someone to bail him out of his troubles. You know the type.

You can tell from those descriptions that each character has his or her own set of problems and it seems like this unwanted reunion comes at a time where each of their lives are unraveling (some slowly, some quickly).

You should see this movie if: You worship at the altars of Bateman and Fey (Jason Bateman plays Judd, Tina Fey plays Wendy); you don’t mind having your humor with a large helping of sadness and depression to go with it; you enjoy that helter skelter type of movie where a lot is going on and you don’t really understand how everything intertwines until the very end (a la Crazy, Stupid, Love); you want to see the most perfectly-placed joint smoking scene in movie history (with all the depression, it was very necessary to give us a scene purely for comic relief purposes in the middle of the movie, and that’s what they did with this no-strings-attached marijuana scene at temple).

You should not see this movie if: You can’t control your tears…seriously, my fiancee cried from start to finish and she only cries for the ending of Armageddon; if you want happy endings; you can’t handle the thought of a dysfunctional family and siblings who possibly hate each other; you don’t like swearing and other R-rated components of movies; you prefer plot-driven action movies (like Transformers for instance) to subtle character-driven films; you hate to laugh.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I’m giving This Is Where I Leave You a 6 out of 10. I’m not sure it’s one you’ll want to watch more than once due to the heaviness, but it’s worth it for the story and the laughs.

“Bad Words” Movie Review: Introducing you to Jason Bateman’s best (and so far only) directing job

bad words

It’s amazing that the recently released black comedy Bad Words is going to be a mild success.

Amazing because I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of it, that’s how nonexistent their marketing was (The only reason I stumbled upon it was due to a trip to Universal Studios where they happened to have a very small poster advertising it).

Amazing because the $10 million movie is the story of a vengeful adult who finds a loophole that allows him to participate in—and possibly ruin—a children’s national spelling bee. Not really a film that screams “Must See!” to the masses.

And amazing because the only bankable actor in the film was Jason Bateman…not someone you’d normally associate with carrying a movie.

But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t do exactly that. Bateman gives this cynical character plenty of dimensions, and he somehow pulls off becoming an empathetic figure while simultaneously being reprehensible.

And it turns out he also made his directing debut with Bad Words.

When you see the boring story lines and the blah locations, you’ll agree that he made something above average without much help.

I’m really not sure why Universal/Focus Features came to the decision to spend exactly $179 on worldwide marketing for this movie. If they had bothered to promote it, here are a few marketing pitches I heard they were considering:

  1. “Come watch Jason Bateman do things to prepubescent children that would get a normal man five to 10 in state prison.” (Seriously, there’s some indecent exposure in front of a 10-year-old that Bateman facilitates, and there’s a girl-becoming-a-woman situation that he uses to his advantage.)
  2. “We thought of a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch that we think we turned into a decent 90-minute movie because we gave the main character a hidden emotional motivation and made him flawed yet somehow likable. Do come see it.”
  3. “Innocent children getting emotionally abused, verbally assaulted and cheated out of achieving their dreams. What’s not to love?

Bateman is basically doing the intellectual version of the grown up who goes balls-to-the-wall in a children’s basketball game. Just swatting the ball away on every shot attempt; firing the ball at a child’s face to “save it from going out of bounds”; trash talking the poor kids off the court.

For a sense of comparison, I’d go so far as to say Bateman’s performance is on par with his funniest acting jobs, but the overall quality of the movie doesn’t touch his high water mark, Horrible Bosses (a movie that has somehow climbed so high on my all-time comedy rankings that it would probably be the runner-up to The Big Lebowski if I was forced to choose one movie that I had to watch every day for the rest of my life).

You should see this movie if: You worship at the altar of Michael Bluth or Jason Bateman; you are so in love with comedy that you can’t wait for something to come out on DVD even if you know the overall story can’t possibly be worth paying for; you enjoy watching children suffer; you can get on board with a movie that depicts the bully as the hero; you want to see an inexperienced 10-year-old actor hold his own in this made-for-adults comedy; and like me, you know that Bateman is on a slow yet steady ascent to being a legitimate A-list comedic actor.

You should not see this movie if: You know you’re going to feel bad for the children; you take the treatment of children so seriously that you can’t even fathom laughing at something bad happening to one of them; you need an airtight plot to enjoy a movie; you need the cliched happy endings and the convenient wrapped up loose ends; you hate Bateman (in which case my girlfriend will gladly recite a list to you called “101 reasons that Jason Bateman is the greatest man on this planet”); you aren’t the type who could realize this is all just scene after scene of SNL skits and yet still enjoy it.

In terms of ranking this movie regardless of where you watch it, I’d have to give it a mere 5.5 on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS). But of course it would be a little higher if we’re just determining whether or not it’s a worthwhile Netflix rental. You will laugh (and gasp) enough to  justify giving Bad Words 90 minutes of your precious time.