A sentimental dramedy starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey as exasperated siblings
Hollywood seems comfortable making funeral films. Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You features an ensemble cast led by stars Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. The overly sentimental dramedy hangs awkwardly around four adult siblings, asked to remain under one roof for seven days after the passing of their father. Marketed as an adult comedy, the movie seems far more at ease with the inherent drama examining their choices in life. Adapting the 2009 novel of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, the film’s characters are constructed a little too perfectly for its aspirations.
This Is Where I Leave You pivots around Judd’s (Jason Bateman) current life situation. Judd walks in on his wife (Abigail Spencer) having sex with his friend and boss, Wade (Dax Shephard). Soon after Judd’s discovery of his wife’s infidelity, his father suddenly passes away. That throws his life into chaos, as Judd now has to hash out his problems surrounded by his mother and siblings. Thinking his life had been perfect, it forces him to examine what went wrong in a bout of self-reflection.
Judd Altman is one of four siblings in the loving family, all with their own problems. Wendy (Tina Fey) is married to a man more worried about work than his own family. Paul (Corey Stoll) runs the father’s retail store, desperately trying to have a child despite repeated attempts with his wife. Phillip is the youngest of the bunch, a slacker engaged to a woman (Connie Britton) old enough to be his mother. The four adult children are kept around for seven days after their father’s funeral by their sassy mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda). She claims it was his dying wish that the family observes this Jewish custom. One thing this movie avoids is heavily relying on the internal conflicts between these siblings.
The quiet story under delivers the promise of comedic entertainers
I think marketing certainly wanted moviegoers to believe this was another R-rated comedy driven by Jason Bateman. Instead, we get a quirky drama about a family reflecting on their current situation and what choices led them there. There are some lighter moments, mostly provided by Ben Schwartz as a young rabbi with connections to the family’s past. Everything happens a little too neatly in its narrative, especially as a former flame played by Rose Byrne enters Judd’s life as a perfect romantic replacement for his wife. While the characters are all convincingly fleshed out, you cannot help but feel they are stock characters we’ve already seen in a hundred other movies. The narrative also has to juggle many characters, some of which are more interesting than others. Timothy Olyphant shows up in a cameo role that leads almost nowhere.
This Is Where I Leave You probably would have been better received with a less star-studded cast. The quiet story under delivers the promise of comedic entertainers like Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. There are some laughs, but they are few and far between in this dramedy. It is the type of comedy that feels forced at times, jumping from crude sex jokes to sweeter laughs earned at the expense of a young child potty training. The cast is good enough on its own to recommend the movie despite these problems. There is enough genuine emotion and feeling in This Is Where I Leave You, ultimately making it sweet but unfulfilled.
Warner Bros. provides a technically perfect Blu-ray presentation for This Is Where I Leave You. Filmed using Arri Alexa XT cameras, the digital production provides a vaguely film-like image with strong clarity, sharp detail, great black levels, and a pleasing contrast. While a notch below the best Blu-ray has to offer, the movie is well served by its crisp resolution. Excellent, unfiltered detail abounds in the handsome scope presentation.
Warner employs a BD-50 for this Blu-ray release, inviting a more substantial video encode that averages 22.95 Mbps for the main feature. The AVC encoding is transparent to the raw digital filmmaking, allowing natural color reproduction and accurate flesh-tones. The transfer has been taken from its native digital intermediate without significant processing, leaving a neutral color palette. There are few artifacts of note, its compression handles the relatively clean digital cinematography without problems.
There are some minor limitations in the 1080p video. This Is Where I Leave You lacks the depth and pop of better discs. The dramedy has a slightly gritty texture added to its digital purity, some will get fooled into believing they are watching actual film stock. The solid contrast doesn’t quite jump off the screen, and color saturation is mildly subdued for a brand-new movie. It’s a muted scheme likely intended for dramatic impact, hinting at less comedic intentions by the director.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is perfectly fine for the dialogue-driven movie. There are very few opportunities for the lossless soundtrack to impress in surround use aside from a few instances of ambient support. This is a limited rear channel mix, dominated by a hardly noticeable underscore from composer Michael Giacchino. The occasional burst of Rap music, associated with Phillip’s character, breaks the soundtrack’s monotony.
Optional subtitles include English SDH, French, Latino Spanish, and Portuguese. Displaying in a white font, subtitles appear in an annoying pattern mostly outside the 2.39:1 framing that alternate between the top and bottom black bars. 5.1 Dolby Digital dubbed soundtracks in French, Spanish, and Portuguese are included.
This combo package includes a DVD version of the film and an UltraViolet digital copy. The UV copy redeems in HDX on VUDU and Flixster. A plain cardboard slipcover reproduces the uninspired cover, showcasing the ensemble of stars.
An assortment of well-made special features adds up to a complete set, at least by today’s home video standards. It’s not a groundbreaking commentary but snagging the director and original author together provides far better context. The short featurettes all have glimpses from the set and interview the main principals in this cast.
The Brother-Sister Bond (05:38 in HD) – Jason Bateman and Tina Fey discuss their characters’ special relationship in the film.
The Matriarch (03:59 in HD) – A brief featurette focusing on Jane Fonda’s character, the mother of the Altman family.
Sibling Rivals (05:04 in HD) – A featurette interviewing Corey Stoll on his character, Paul.
Choreographed Chaos (05:38 in HD) – Director Shawn Levy and others discuss the working process in making this movie, showing an inside glimpse at the set.
The Gospel According To Rabbi Boner (06:27 in HD) – Writer Jonathan Tropper explains the genesis of this character. We get some takes from actor Ben Schwartz that didn’t make the film, probably the funniest character.
Deleted Scenes (6 scenes; 13:34 in HD) – Most of these deleted and extended scenes relate to Judd Altman. None of them really change the primary themes found in the film, except for one involving Judd’s sister-in-law. The alternate scene involving her could have changed the tone and message of Judd’s emotional journey.
The Narrative Voice: A Discussion With Shawn Levy and Jonathan Tropper (04:28 in HD) – A brief featurette interviewing both men together as they discuss how this movie came about and what they hoped to achieve by bringing the novel to screen.
Commentary with Director Shawn Levy and Writer Jonathan Tropper – The two men have a friendly discussion breaking down the film and slathering far too much praise on the cast. The most unusual nugget gleaned from this commentary is that Jane Fonda wore prosthetic breasts for one scene, proudly showing them off on set.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.