A fairly typical story of a dysfunctional family brought together by a family tragedy, This is Where I Leave You combines quality acting with a mix of giggle-worthy humour and drama. The movie begins with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) having a really, really bad day when he learns that his wife is cheating on him with his boss and that his father has died. The old man’s dying wish, according to Judd’s mother (the age-defying Jane Fonda), was for the family to “sit shiva” according to Jewish custom. This provides the basis for the big family reunion and the reason for having to spend every day for the next seven days together in the family room. Although the reason for the reunion is religion-based, the family is not at all religious and that is where some of the fun comes in – “Mom, you’re sitting in the exact same spot we put our Christmas tree…”
The family also consists of Judd’s three other siblings and their significant (or insignificant) others: older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn), little brother Phillip (Adam Driver) and his new girlfriend (Connie Britton), and finally his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) and her mostly absent husband. Coming from a relatively small town, there are a number of close family friends who play a part in the madness that ensues, complete with colourful language and themes which aren’t completely family-friendly. Other supporting actors include Timothy Olyphant, Rose Byrne, Ben Schwartz, Dax Shepard, and Abigail Spencer. Shawn Levy as the Director (Real Steel, Night at the Museum, Date Night, The Internship) brings all of these talented actors and comedians together in perfect balance and handles the dysfunctional family clichés well in order to make the movie unique enough for tougher audiences.
This is Where I Leave You isn’t too long (103 minutes) and amidst the giggles, even has a few moments that genuinely tug at the heart strings. The majority of the laughs come, expectantly, from the exchanges between Bateman’s and Fey’s characters, and overall, the family dynamic is pretty believable compared to other family-based dramedies. It isn’t completely unlike The Family Stone in this way. It is a fairly light movie with a good ending that will leave most people happy that they saw it, in genuine awe of Jane Fonda’s overall appearance (the woman is in better shape than most 25 year olds), and maybe wishing they had a larger, funnier family.