A time-honored tradition of movies follows these basic contours: adult progatonist’s parent dies/relative gets married/family celebrates holiday. Adult protagonist returns to ancestral home from comfortable, grown-up life to discover that everything that he/she has assumed about him/herself is blown to pieces, and he/she must rediscover self in the company of an inevitably zany but ultimately loving family.
Usually a parent or other elder relation is unhinged. Explosions, accidents, or sexual escapades of a dubious nature ensue. Frequently the protagonist’s romantic life is on the rocks, which is convenient for the introduction of an old or new flame who can reveal to the protagonist some new dimension of life or identity. Ultimately, protagonist must learn to loosen up or accept people for who they are or take life one day at a time or something else you might read in a slogan on Pinterest.
I inexplicably adore this genre—even the mediocre-to-pretty-bad ones. I can rattle off a list off the top of my head from the last decade or so: Garden State, Margot at the Wedding, Rachel Getting Married, Elizabethtown, A Christmas Tale, August: Osage County, The Royal Tenenbaums (lots of Wes Anderson’s work, actually).
So, as an aficianado, I beg of you: if you get the impulse to see This Is Where I Leave You, save your money and watch any of the above films. Any of them, even the ones with low Rotten Tomatoes scores. They’re all better than this one.
To rehash, with particulars: a week ago, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) had a nice life, with a comfy apartment, a good job as a radio producer, and a beautiful wife. It all falls to pieces when he comes home early with a birthday cake (of course) ...1