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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU. FILM.

The first thing to be said about this film is that it has a fantastic cast.

Jane Fonda plays the matriarch of the Altman family, the centre of the story. The rest of the cast is a list of many of the best American TV actors of their generation.


Jason Bateman (from Arrested Development) plays the middle brother in a family of four siblings whose father has just died, Tina Fey (30 Rock) is his sister, while Corey Stoller (House of Cards) and Adam Driver (Girls) are the other brothers.

Then there is Rose Byrne (Damages), Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Justify), Kathryn Hahn (Suburgatory), Abigail Spencer (Rectify), Connie Britton (Nashville), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Rec) who play a variety of characters connected in some way to the central Altman family.

The litany of recognisable faces is almost distracting, and in some ways the quality of the cast overwhelms what is a relatively slight film.

Nevertheless, This is where I leave you is enjoyable. It centres around the seven days after the death of Mort Altman, where the family sit Shiva, the traditional Jewish way of marking the dead where the relatives of the deceased do not leave the house and receive visitors for a week.

The interplay between the siblings is the strongest part of the story. There are jealousies, fights, betrayals, secrets revealed, nostalgia, much of which will be recognised by anyone from a family of more than one.

However, the movie constantly struggles against a tide of sentimentality that threatens to overwhelm it. Conflicts are resolved a little too easily, the film assumes everyone has only good intentions and people's flaws are mostly just used as vehicles for comedy. The score, too, lays on the shmaltz, signposting when you are supposed to be moved by a particular scene.  

Yet for all that, the film just about manages to avoid over sugaring the pill. The performances carry the story, Bateman is subtle and conflicted, Tina Fey is funny and wry and genuine, Jane Fonda is just this side of bonkers, and the movie retains a charm and an energy that is hard to resist.


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