Monday, March 19, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

After 2010's hidden gem "Cyrus," the Duplass brothers (Jay and Mark) return to the director's chair with the equally offbeat but less incisive and overly coincidental "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." Jason Segel achieves a certain honesty and likableness as the title character, a 30-year-old virgin and social misfit who's not quite agoraphobic but mostly stays in his mother's basement and watches "Signs" over and over. Ed Helms shows commendable range as Jeff's Porsche-driving brother, whose marriage is falling apart, and Susan Sarandon has seldom been more believable than as the mom who tells her AIM secret admirer she's old and getting flabby, but who's actually youthful in her openness to new possibilities. (Rae Dawn Chong also impresses in a rare meaty part; she hasn't had this much screen time since, oh, say, "The Squeeze.") The main problem is that, for a mumblecore movie, way too much happens in its 83 plot-heavy moments; coincidence piles on coincidence until the truly preposterous climax, which may make you laugh out loud. It's fine to wonder whether there are no accidents, and every wrong-number phone call has cosmic significance, but if there's no normal, quiet time for the magic moments to break up, they sort of lose their magic, don't they?

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