Finally, a decent movie at the theater. (It’s been a bad year.) This Is Where I Leave You was not only decent, but it had good characters, a good story and something to think about. It went beyond my expectations.
This is the story of the Altman family. The four grown children have returned home following the death of their father. Their mother (Jane Fonda) insists it was their father’s dying wish that they all “sit shiva” for him. This means that they must stay together in their childhood home for seven days of formal mourning.
Anyone who is an adult sibling and has spent long periods of time together with fellow siblings will understand the dynamics at work in the Altman family. Each of the four adult children love each other, but within a few hours they slip back into their family patterns from years earlier.
The previews for this movie called it “amazingly funny.” I disagree. There were many laugh-out-loud moments, but this is not a funny slap-stick movie. I’d call it a humorous drama. It’s especially humorous for adult siblings who’ve ever been in this situation.
The four actors playing the four Altman kids did a sensational job. I expected superior performances from Jason Bateman and Tina Fey – and got it. In the picture above they are chatting on the roof outside their childhood bedrooms – something they did back then. Adam Driver and Corey Stoll surprised me with their wonderful interpretations of the oldest and youngest siblings. In fact, I’m going to look for other movies that include Adam Driver. I liked him. Jane Fonda, who was cast in the role of the mother, simply played Jane Fonda. (I’m not a fan.)
There is also an excellent ensemble cast around the family members. There’s a wife, a husband, a funny two-year-old, a rabbi, and other friends and ex’s. Some of the things these people do are aggravating, some are maddening, and many are funny. They all added a great deal to make this a See-It-On-The-Big-Screen movie.
In my opinion, the movie celebrates the institution of the family with all of its idiosyncrasies and funny moments, but also all the basic love. Watching the interactions of the Altman family made me feel good about the families that surround me.
This Is Where I Leave You was adapted from a book (same title) by Jonathan Tropper. He also wrote the screenplay.