Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by Jonathan Tropper
Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda
When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.
Although clearly billed as a comedy (I mean, have you seen the cast?) from very early on there is a real sense of poignancy about Levy’s direction of Jonathan Tropper’s adaptation of his own novel which shows real promise for something more than the usual mass produced comedy profiteering. As a case in point with regard to how dysfunctional a family can be, most people should be able to relate to at least some of the characters here, suggesting that maybe we are just as dysfunctional as the family featured in some respects.
When their father dies, his now grown-up children, usually happily staying at arms length from one another emotionally, are forced to spend the week together with their mother as their fathers last wish at their family home. As is amply stated, this will no doubt bring up issues that each has with the other and will be something of a trial for all of them.
Littered with a very talented cast, the siblings, Bateman, Fey, Stoll and Driver all perform both admirably and believably in their roles with Bateman, unsurprisingly maybe, getting most of the screen time. His usual doe-eyed approach to comedy works as well here as anywhere, given that in amongst the wisecracks there is a fair share of contemplation about past mistakes and uncertain futures for everyone. To go into any of the many layers contained within will possibly diminish the project, so I won’t relate them here, but without giving too much away, it is fair to say that there are alot of things going on and if the film does indeed have a main fault, it will have been imagining it could do all of the content justice with regards to time expended on the respective relevance of the storylines.
Nonetheless, saying that, Levy and Tropper do their utmost to get the meat of the book into the film and succeed for the most part. Maybe the trimmings are a little sparse, but this shouldn’t come as any great shock, given the amount of different tales we are trying to digest.
Pitched as I said as a comedy, there is alot to smile about, but maybe not in the way that you might immediately expect, and whilst the inanity and frustrations of lives we can all recognise are often funny, most of the actual laughs come in the form of irony and sarcasm, rather than pratfalls and joke-telling, natural conclusions sometimes to the situations that these very different characters find themselves suffering under.
As expected, character arcs are severely limited, if only for the number of characters present and the allowable screen time to flesh them out. Only Bateman’s character, Judd, really gets an kind of worthy treatment, which is a shame as the performances from the rest of the main cast display a worthiness for further investigation also. Time waits for no man, however.
Altogether, an often funny, always caustic, look at modern relationships and the pitfalls that surround affairs of the heart, amplifying an already well known premise, that love is hard and takes work and compromise in order for it to be successful and fulfilling. Add to this the fact that people most often carry around their problems like unwanted baggage rather than, even every so often, putting down the bag and asking someone to lighten their load for awhile. Entertaining throughout, this is worth a watch and the script is occasionally very rewarding, but this is more soul than funnies.