This Is Where I Leave You . . .

Before summer started I put together a list of movies I wanted to see this summer.

I did pretty well. "Citizen Koch" is on Netflix (eh, a little preachy). "Tammy" was wonderful (and far more nuanced than I expected it to be). I have a review of "Wish I Was Here" in the queue (it was splendid, frankly (we can argue later but ONLY if you actually saw it)). I didn't really love "A Most Wanted Man". I skipped "If I Stay" - I don't know what I was thinking. "Life Itself" is going to lead at Tallgrass this fall. That leads me to the only other movie on the list I did see . . . "This Is Where I Leave You"!

I won't write a synopsis . . . watch for yourself:

To be clear . . . this movie had a lot of (my) pressure riding on it (for me). I LOVED the book (and anything Tropper has put on paper) and I was highly dubious of Jason Bateman. Turns out my fears were for nothing. I thought the movie, written/adapted by Tropper himself (which always helps, I think, in an adaptation) and directed by Shawn Levy (who has done a handful of movies including Date Night and the Night at the Museum franchise) was just about perfect.

Jason Bateman was just varied enough from his normal character that I truly bought him as Judd Foxman/Altman (they renamed the family in the movie). Tina Fey (who I admittedly run hot/cold on as an actress) was very funny and incredibly likable as the only sister in the family. Adam Driver (who I only really know from wonderful film Frances Ha) looks like the dude you never want the girl to bring home but he nails his role as the lovable, over-coddled youngest son. Corey Stoll (who I still miss as Congressman Russo in House of Cards (you are telling me there were no cameras in that garage. . . )) is great as the dutiful son who runs the family business and is married to the former girlfriend of his brother (so much resentment, so little time and attention). Jane Fonda is the comedic matriarch to end all comedic matriarchs. Rose Byrne (who plays someone totally different in all of her roles and for that - I applaud her) was wonderful as the "strange" hometown girl.

The supporting cast was great, too. Debra Monk and Connie Britton (two of my perennial Heynows) were as lovely as ever but neither played characters that truly moved the movie forward (both have scenes and moments they steal, to be clear) and I thought the always intriguing Timothy Olyphant could have been used more (his "Horry" was used more in the book) and I was not entirely sold on Ben Schwartz as the Rabbi/Bonner (he did fine but I would have liked a bigger name there (not sure why I cared)). The other spouses (including Judd's wife Quinn) were in so little of the movie that they don't really matter and the kid with dropping his potty and trousers was wonderful.

I would put This Is Where I Leave You (as I suspected I might) up there with my favorite "Dysfunctional Family" movie of all time . . . The Family Stone.

I think anytime you can lump so many characters - cast with talented people - together and have them be so very different (and often stereotypes/cliches) and have so many choices for angst and conflict and yet lay it all over a bed of "but we are family and we love each other, dammit" - you have a chance to make something great. OR it can be horrible. Think about all those films made every year where every member of the cast is an Academy Award winner (or at least nominee) and the movie is horrible because it is just two hours of scenery chewing and establishing shots. This one stayed well on the side of great.

I would not put this movie in my all-time favorites list. It is too new to be there and I still love the book more and think there is a lot more laughter, tears, and punch in those pages. I would suggest you see it. It is smart, funny, warm, sad, and endearing - like any good, dysfunctional family film should be.