With a star-studded cast compiled of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, and of course Jane Fonda, it’s hard to watch the trailer for This Is Where I Leave You and not think I need to go see that. Based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You is the ever so classic story of a middle-aged man, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) avoiding getting his life back together as more pieces of it keep falling to the ground. However, with the help of his family but mostly his sister, Wendy Altman (Tina Fey), Judd eventually faces accepting his father’s death that just happens to come crashing in upon his separation from his wife.
The movie opens on Judd going about his usual and seemingly mundane life until he comes home to his wife (Abigail Spencer) cheating on him- admitting the affair had been taking place for about a year. And as if that was not enough, Judd later gets an abrupt call from Wendy telling him that their father has just passed away. This shoves Judd into a further state of denial and indifference to what is happening around him thus setting him up for the unavoidable breaking point that will occur.
However, before this breaking point can occur, the Altman’s have been grounded. Claiming that is was the father’s dying request to have all of his children under one roof again the mother, Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda) forces her children to sit Shiva- a Jewish week long mourning period in which family members of the deceased sit in short chairs while visitors greet them and pay their respects. Naturally, the Altman children are not happy about this. I mean you try sitting with your brothers and sisters for a week and see if you get along.
Don’t be fooled that the entire movie will be exclusively all about Judd’s always increasing list of problems. Each of the Altman’s have their own issues taken into account. We see the oldest brother Paul’s (Corey Stoll) feelings of inadequacy, resentment and anger towards his family. Wendy’s clear unhappiness with her marriage to her husband. The youngest brother Phillip’s (Adam Driver) constant avoidance of responsibility and refusal to grow up. And last but not least, the mother’s plot twist I never saw coming.
Despite the movie being for the most part centered around Judd, the film did extremely well on touching on each of the Altman’s equally. On the other hand, a common complaint that has been heard from those who read the book is that the movie did not go into Paul’s background enough, therefore making him seem angry towards his siblings for no apparent reason. Also, Rose Byrne’s character of Penny Moore was a much bigger part in the movie than it was in the book. But there are no complaints here about that being as I love Rose Byrne. Penny Moore is the must needed dose of fun and realness that Judd has been lacking in his life.
In the end, every member of the Altman family has some hard choices to make. Some harder than others. But it is in these choices that you can imagine the life they have ahead of them after the credits roll- for better or for worse.
Montclair State | New Jersey