Mumblecore is an interesting phenomenon in modern cinema and one that 98% of cinemagoers would be advised to avoid. But, if you are going to get your mumble on, then the best place to start is with the Duplass brothers, who broke into the mainstream last year with Cyrus starring John C Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei. They’re back this month with Hollywood stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms in Jeff, Who Lives At Home.
The eponymous Jeff is played by everyone’s favourite Muppet (or man) Jason Segel. He’s a useless, pot-smoking slacker who sees existential connections in the smallest things. The ‘smallest thing’ that gets the film going is a phone-call for someone called Kevin. Thus begins a hunt across Baton Rouge for an explanation to this phenomenon. It’s a hunt that will lead him to cross paths with his paint salesman brother, played by Ed Helms, who suspects that his wife (the wonderful Judy Greer) is having an affair. The two brothers reconnect as their investigation goes on and even though the ending is too absurd to be plausible, there’s something charming about their relationship.
The movie makes its main (perhaps only) misstep in its use of Susan Sarandon as the boys’ mother. Her subplot feels like it’s taken from a sitcom and bears no relation to the main thrust of the film. Still, Sarandon is always likeable, so it’s not unpleasant to see her onscreen. But the film really succeeds when Segel and Helms are allowed to run riot through Louisiana. Their largely improvised dialogue is funny and touching in almost equal measure and, were it not for the surreal ending, as honest as any dra-medy of recent years.
A Mumblecore Genre Guide might want you to watch Puffy Chair or Baghead first but this is as good a jumping-off place as I’ve ever seen (especially as it’s not shot on frustratingly amateurish VHS) and definitely worth catching.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home is the Slacker’s Club choice at The Phoenix Picturehouse on Thursday 26 April at 8.45pm. Just bring your student ID and you get to see the movie for FREE!