Dysfunctional families have played a part in quite a lot of films such as “August: Osage County” and it’s pretty much a key staple of almost every major TV sitcom as evident through shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” Sure enough, it’s the main focus of “This is Where I Leave You,” based off of the 2009 by Jonathan Tropper.
This film features an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda, among others. It is mostly because of this terrific cast that the film manages to not only have a good amount of humor but for also being really touching at times even amidst some of the film’s crazier moments.
It centers on the four siblings of the Altman family; Judd (Bateman), Wendy (Fey), Paul (Corey Stoll) and Phillip (Adam Driver), who reunite with their mother Hilary (Fonda) after their father dies. They learn that his last request was that they mourn via the Jewish tradition of Shiva, in which the family of the deceased sit and mourn for a period of seven days.
Despite the fact that the family is not Jewish, the four siblings end up having to honor the tradition anyway when their mother grounds them. During this time, the dysfunctional family starts to bond as each member finds themselves dealing with the current conflicts in their lives.
Because this is a movie revolving around a dysfunctional family, the humor mainly comes from awkward moments that arise during their time together. Of course that also means that there is also quite a lot of arguing as is typical with any film or TV show of this genre. Still, even amidst all of the arguing and the occasional gross-out moment, there is a pretty solid amount of humorous moments in this film.
As with many comedies, not all the jokes hit. For instance, there’s a running gag in which the infant son of one of the siblings keeps going to the bathroom in a portable toilet that he keeps carrying around. This results in one of the aforementioned gross-out moments. Thankfully these moments don’t dominate the humor of the film.
But ultimately the greatest strength of the movie is that, even with the occasional immature or gross-out moment, it’s serious when it needs to be. After all, it’s a dramedy about a bickering family who reunite in the wake of the death of their father.
Dramedies are a tough genre of film to work in but this film manages to balance the humor and the drama pretty well. There are quite a lot of moments where the Altman siblings are arguing with each other, but there are also plenty of scenes where they are bonding, which are really touching.
Of course, the film greatly benefits from a terrific ensemble cast from top to bottom. The camaraderie amongst the siblings is excellent and feels very much authentic. Bateman and Fey bring a nice, serious and straight-faced attitude to the film. They help balance out more eccentric characters like Driver and Fonda.
“This is Where I Leave You” can be fairly wacky at times, as can be expected from a film about a dysfunctional family. Thankfully the film isn’t afraid to slow down and take things seriously when it needs to. The scenes in which the Altman family reconnect with one another are where the movie really shines.