"This is Where I Leave You" is a typical "family-reconnects-after-a-loss" type of film. These movies usually play out in predictable fashion -- the film opens with a death in the family, the adult children come back to their childhood home and bring their real-life problems with them, there's friction, there's a breakthrough, there's healing, and then they all leave. "This is Where I Leave You" follows all of the above steps and throws in a few "out-of-left-field" surprises when it has time to fill.
This isn't a horrible movie, but there's nothing special here either. "This is Where I Leave You" boasts a talented cast led by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda. Unfortunately, even the collective acting chops of this group couldn't put together even one great performance, let alone the multiple great performances that were possible. Furthermore, characters with existing issues then have to deal with a family crisis frequently come off as mopey rather than deeply troubled.
The difference between what this film was capable of and what it produced was noticeable to me. This film structure always has great potential. Typically, the drama takes place in relatively few locations, and there's a distinct lack of action scenes to distract the audience. What's left is a concentrated canvas that is inherently intimate. Too often, the scope and vision of this type of film extends beyond its familiar setting and is mired by an unbalanced mixture of comedy and drama. It's an incredibly difficult thing to seamlessly blend a compelling story with strong humor. The result is much more likely to be halfhearted humor that detracts from the potential of the greater story.
This film is a perfect example of something that is less than the sum of its parts. The sound hull of the basic dramatic structure is weakened by the ornaments added for spectacle; and, the slow intake of unnecessary cargo. The resulting ship is sitting precariously low in the water, even if it appears to be afloat.
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