This Is Where I Leave You is a film about a family dealing with loss and old unresolved issues the loss triggers when they are forced to be together for the first time in years. Although the different stories seen in the film are not new, the film as a whole was very entertaining.
The main protagonist is Judd Altman, played by the great Jason Bateman, who, in the first few minutes of the film, has caught his wife cheating with his boss. In another scene he gets a call from his sister Wendy, played by Tina Fey, telling him his father has died. Judd travels back home for the funeral.
Mom, Hillary, played by Jane Fonda, is a published author who shares too much especially about her children much to their chagrin. She tells the children that their father wanted them to sit “Shiva” which in Judaism means to spend a whole week together in mourning. Their father’s wish comes as a shock since they grew up as secular Jews but they give in for their mother.
The rest of the film revolves around the Shiva and we see how the relationships within the family haven’t changed since the children were younger. For example, the oldest, Paul, bullies his brothers when he doesn’t get his way. Wendy knows her brother’s secrets just like she did in their younger days and snitches to their mother.
Although the various stories of the kids have been seen before in other movies and are cliche’, I found that I enjoyed the film overall. I think it’s because the cast was excellent. Even the minor characters made me laugh like the Altmans’ childhood friend, Rabbi Charles Grodner, played by Ben Schwartz.
I do wish the filmmakers would have taken more of a risk with the story. I haven’t read the book it’s based on but I saw several potential plots that weren’t explored deeply enough like Wendy’s history with her ex-boyfriend Horry Callen played by Timothy Olyphant. This was Judd’s movie but I would love to have seen Wendy’s story more.
It’s a nice adult bittersweet comedy about family. Check it out if you can.