Jeff, Who Lives At Home (7/3/12)

Jeff, Who Lives At HomeMovie One Hundred Fifty Four

Jeff, Who Lives At Home is the story of a man who is looking for signs of what his life was destined for.

The opening scene has Jeff (Jason Segel), a seemingly ambitionless thirty year old living at home, talking into a tape recorder detailing the movie Signs and how he really thinks everyone has signs in their life pointing them to their destiny. Jeff answers a (seemingly) wrong number from a man asking for “Kevin” and Jeff takes this as a sign that he needs to find Kevin. His mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), calls from work and tells Jeff the one thing she wants for her birthday is for him to fix a slat on the pantry door. Jeff ventures out into the world to help his mom but his real goal is to find Kevin. He runs into his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), a seemingly successful married man, whose life is actually in ruin and Jeff follows his signs to his real destiny.

I really want to praise Jeff, Who Lives at Home because it is a film with so much heart but unfortunately the entire film I was so incredibly distracted by the camerawork. If you read my review of Hunger Games, you may recall that I find excessive use of shakycam to be totally superfluous and I can’t stand it. Unfortunately, for seemingly no reason at all, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is shot entirely in this fashion, which may not be distracting on its own if it wasn’t coupled with zooming every 5-10 seconds. Literally that often, I wish I was being hyperbolic. Because of this I couldn’t give my full attention to liking the characters and their personal motives for their lives.

The characters here are actually quite well-written and I think we all know people like Jeff, people that we may look down but have more heart than anyone around them. Jason Segel plays this role perfectly and I was actually reminded a lot of his role as Nick in TV’s Freaks and Geeks. I also adore Judy Greer, who plays Pat’s wife fed up at Pat’s insistence that buying himself a Porsche is more important than buying a house.

Commonly categorized as “mumblecore” Jeff, Who Lives at Home seems like the Duplass brothers wanted to branch out and have something larger but then held back. The story is there, the story works really well, actually. Other than my abhorrence of the way the film was shot, I have few complaints looking back on Jeff, Who Lives at Home and I would still recommend it.

I give it 3 ketchup streams out of 5.

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You Don’t Know Jack (6/28/12)

You Don't Know JackMovie One Hundred Forty Nine

You Don’t Know Jack is a biopic about Jack Kevorkian’s fight for doctor assisted suicide and the struggles for its acceptance.

Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) is a pathologist in Michigan who, along with the help of his sister, Margo Janus (Brenda Vaccaro), and colleague, Neal Nicol (John Goodman), decide to offer terminal patients the right to suicide. Kevorkian encounters numerous detractors along the way and finds himself in legal hot water consistently. Kevorkian does have other people in his corner, notably the Hemlock Society president, Janet Good (Susan Sarandon), and lawyer, Geoffry Feiger (Danny Huston). As Kevorkian struggles with what he sees as basic human rights, he struggles his unique personal and professional issues.

Right off the bat I have to commend Al Pacino on what I can only describe as possibly my favorite performance after Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather series. He is nigh unrecognizable in this role and nails all of Kevorkian’s mannerisms and personality traits amazingly well. It’s almost a shame Pacino’s performance is so incredible because it outshines the rest of the cast, who is also spectacular.

You Don’t Know Jack is partially shot to look like home video since Kevorkian would always record the conversations he had with his patients about their illnesses as well as their reasons for not wanting to go on. These scenes are remarkably powerful in their realism that at times it is eerie. The film itself sticks to telling the story of Kevorkian during the years when he was in the media spotlight, mostly due to his numerous court battles. There are some hints to his past profession and personal life, but they are not the focus here.

The film sets up the debate of “is this right?” perfectly and doesn’t always take sides. There are times that it seems Kevorkian is leading this crusade for all the wrong reasons and other times when he is completely humanized. He really was an interesting man, regardless of if you believe he was doing the right thing or not. You Don’t Know Jack is also an interesting case when it comes to awards because it was made for HBO, it was not eligible for the Academy Awards, which is an absolute shame.

In spite of its sometimes morbid subject matter, I would highly recommend You Don’t Know Jack for Pacino alone. The debate of physician assisted euthanasia can come later, but for a film to tackle the subject with this much care, it’s something special.

I give it 4 Jack Kevorkian paintings out of 5.

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