Homeward Bound

Holding up a voice recorder, Jeff (Jason Siegel) gazes out into the horizon and chronicles his inner philosophy.

“You ever feel like you were waiting forever to figure out what your destiny is?” he says.

Once he finishes his monologue, he clicks off the old-fashioned tape recorder — and gets off the toilet.

It’s a winning combination of sentimentality and absurd humor — and precisely what makes “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” such a delight.

A 30-year-old stoner who lives in the basement of his childhood home, Jeff devoutly lives his life based on the ideology of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs,” believing there are no coincidences and that everything happens for a reason. No one seems to have shown Jeff “The Last Airbender.”

Jeff’s family is in a rut. His brother, Pat (Ed Helms) is kind of a dick. Okay, not “kind of.” He is a dick. Jeff can hardly stand him, and vice versa. But maybe it’s destiny that brings them together after Pat goes down a spiral of family issues with his wife Linda (Judy Greer).

Pat’s insecurities with Linda lead the brothers to spy on her. During a horribly yet hilariously awry attempt at surveillance, Jeff and Pat meet a variety of obstacles, all directly influenced by the current destinies of the characters. Jeff, notable for his fashion sense — a hoodie and basketball shorts, a classic lazy stoner ensemble — struggles to get a table by the window at a fancy bistro. Then again, the arduous task of infiltrating a fancy bistro is a more difficult challenge than simply getting a specific table.

Likewise, Jeff’s mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), is physically and emotionally worn out. She’s angry and frustrated at her son and morose from years of loneliness. It doesn’t help that neither son wished her happy birthday early in the day.

At the foundation of these acute degrees of separation is Jeff, lost and insecure, and still living with his mom. The tension and frustration between him and not only his mom but also Pat, pushes all three characters to their tipping point when interacting with each other.

As the overly emotional heart of the family, Jeff at first feels like a weak and ineffectual character. He’s barely able to get off the toilet and into the kitchen. At most, he can half-open a packet of pop tarts for breakfast before putting it in his mouth. But Jeff believes that destiny has more in store for him. As he becomes more and more determined to realize his supposed destiny, the more compelling he becomes. And to the film’s credit, his devotion isn’t a constant joke. True, there are moments of humor as Jeff becomes obsessed with the name Kevin, whether it’s on a jersey or on the side of a truck, but Jeff isn’t always wrong about his assertions.

Like any other movie directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, the film follows the same path down the mumblecore genre, just like their other films (“Cyrus,” “Baghead”). As the pioneers of the humorous, yet horribly titled micro-genre, these handheld and low-budget comedies are marked by their intense closeness to their subjects. Every character blemish, both physically and emotionally, is thrown on screen without trepidation.

This is what adds color to Jeff, Pat and Susan, as well as the surrounding characters. Although unreal at times, the honest presentation of these quirks makes the film light hearted but still emotionally resonant. (B)

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