A comedy with heart, This Is Where I Leave You shows the complexity of life, love and family. Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is having a shitty year. He has just found his wife sleeping with his boss, lost his job and become a miserable shell of a person. Enter a phone call from home.
His father has passed away and Judd is summoned back home to attend the funeral with his mother (Jane Fonda), his sister (Tina Fey) and his two brothers (Corey Stoll and Adam Driver). His father’s dying wish was to have his family stay under one roof to sit Shiva, a weeklong mourning period in Judaism when those related to the deceased are basically housebound. Along the way, the past weaves in and out, giving us glimpses at the lives of the Altmans and what the word a family really means.
I really liked this movie. It is one of those rare films that mixes bellyaching laughs and heartbreaking moments. It closely resembles real life. Nothing is nice and neatly packaged, no story arch is clean and no character was truly good or bad. It shows the real messiness of life.
Maybe it’s because I saw my father sit Shiva when my grandparents passed away (Shiva is only observed by the parents, children and siblings of the deceased). This Is Where I Leave You stirred a lot of memories. My house filled strangers drifting in and out, murmuring their condolences while depositing yet another pan of food on the kitchen counter. So while I was laughing and crying with the rest of the theater, I couldn’t help but think of my own family: our complications, the loss of my grandparents and our lives all crashing and colliding as we tried to figure out how to mourn. Granted, we are not nearly as funny as the Altmans, but we’re pretty damn close.
I give it four out of five stars, and extra kudos to the director and writers for keeping it real.