Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead, Cyrus) are experts at creating awkward situations. They’re masters of dark comedy who, even if their previous efforts have been under-the-radar of the casual indie movie fan, deserve a second look. Perhaps that’s why big-name stars like Jason Segal, Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon jumped on board with the Duplass’ latest venture, Jeff Who Lives at Home.
As its title suggests, the movie centers on the exploits of Jeff (Segal), a thirtysomething stoner who still lives in his mother’s (Susan Sarandon) paneled basement. One day, he receives an angry call from someone asking for “Kevin.” So, when the mystical Jeff sets out an errand to get wood glue for his mom and encounters a guy named Kevin on the bus ride, he thinks it’s a sign. Jeff joins the guy in a game of pick-up basketball and after, Kevin jumps him and steals a few dollars of loose cash.
Limping home, Jeff randomly runs into his overly confident but not so successful brother Pat, who’s in the midst of having a “business meeting” at Hooters. The two see Pat’s wife Linda (Judy Greer) in a car with another man. Pat’s convinced she’s having an affair and enlists Jeff to help spy on her. The plot develops at a steady pace and by the film’s end you realize that Jeff’s belief in the power of signs wasn’t so far-fetched after all.
The Duplass brothers don’t go for anything fancy. Shot in a primitive manner, the movie comes off as having an almost documentary feel. Segel and Helms (diverting from his more likeable characters on The Office and in Cedar Rapids) effectively go with the flow, successfully improvising dialogue and riffing on a bare bones script. They’re terrific in their respective roles. Sarandon doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but she too, shines as a lonely woman who feels as if she has lost touch with her two sons. And that’s the best thing about the movie – despite its somber tone, it has real heart.