"Is it the whole world or is it just this family."
Ensemble casts tend to be a hit-or-miss kind of thing in my experience. They are either used because they’re the only suitable people to convey brilliantly written roles that require a huge amount of talent to perform. Or they can be used to prop up a film that even the makers know needs to have some stars to give it any credibility at all. Shawn Levy’s This is where I Leave You falls somewhere in between.
When their father suddenly passes away the Altman family are called home to mourn his passing. And as part of his final wish they must spend the entire week together, a prospect that no one is looking forward to.
Just to elaborate, this is not a dark comedy. The film may look like it will be based on the fact that it is set at a funeral, but make no mistake, this is just a regular, any style will do, comedy. Initially that left me a bit disappointed because I love a good old dark comedy. But looking past that, what does this film have going for it. Well for a start it’s directed by Shawn Levy. He’s created some really enjoyable comedies over the years, Cheaper by the Dozen and two Night at the Museum films make a credible career. He’s less of a voice for films and more of a hired man. He gets the job done and it’s always fine. But nothing really stands out.
The same goes for This is Where I Leave You. In some ways that works very nicely. By casting aside their usual comedic trademarks the cast can really feel like a film in general and not a film centred around one person. It tries its best not to be exceptional and leave the focus on anyone in particular which is good if they want a more realistic comedy. There’s some good chemistry between them and it does do a good job at painting a realistic look at siblings.
The most enjoyable performance has to come from Adam Driver. I can tell you know, anyone who’s worried about the casting for Star Wars 7 can tick him off of your list of concerns. You wait to see what his character does you want to see his humour, the presence and weight he has on screen without blocking out everyone else is really impressive. The writing is good as well. The film is not very plot driven but it uses that to its advantage. It shows sealed emptions and uses several stories to explain the antics of each family member. The small scale production and truthful humour make it a pleasant experience with your siblings.
However, this constant need to create a film where no one element stands out does have a negative effect. Simply put it means that barely anything from this film stays in your head five minutes after seeing it. I really had to wrack my memory to find what I liked about this film because to be brutally honest, it is really forgettable. I can see what they wanted to do by making something that relies on chemistry and real situations rather than abstract craziness and weird characters to generate funny scenes. But the result is that it becomes a little dull.
Despite creating a thoroughly entertaining film they also seem to have made one that you will have to really love and re-watch to remember a lot of it. Becoming a bit too formulaic, slightly too average and playing it far too safe to stand out.