Words: Rob DeStefano

I was fortunate enough to attend the festival’s opening film and the east coast premiere of Jeff, Who Lives at Home. This is the fourth feature by the comedic and genuine Jay and Mark Duplass, a brotherly partnership on the verge of brilliance. The two filmmakers, here partnered with Paramount, retain their spontaneous and personal approach to cinema in their latest endeavor.

It was an interesting choice to open with: these directors are young, innovative, and energetic, which cannot be said about the whole affluent, hamptonite audience. Nonetheless, when the credits rolled, the theater produced a full-bodied applause. Compliments ensued as the directors entertained a Q&A that mostly focused on their inspiration behind the project. The two discussed their childhood in New Orleans and how they watched post-college friends move into basement apartments of Baton Rouge to live stoneresque lifestyles – partly giving birth to Jason Segel’s character, Jeff.

The story follows these peculiar characters throughout a day of bizarre events – either coincidental or of destiny, depending on one’s perspective. Jeff is asked by his mother and housemate (Susan Sarandon) to pick up wood glue from the store. This is a man in his thirties who has amounted to nothing and spends his days believing the film Signs plays an integral role in his life. Meanwhile, his mother is receiving messages from a secret admirer at work. Jeff’s brother, Pat (Ed Helms), is in a deep rut with his wife, Linda (Judy Greer).

It’s hilarious, sentimental, and immensely quirky – all of which its creators promised in their opening talk. The film displays a new maturity in the brothers – both in theme and direction – and a growth as artists of the medium. Jeff, Who Lives at Home radiates a magical and specific mood that is worthy of praise. With the exception of Helms, the cast delivers perfect performances.  My favorite may be Greer, who has some dramatic chops, though Segel is equally as pronounced. Helms hides behind his now habitual facial gestures, covering expression with pointed smiles and head twirls. Unfortunately, he is an actor I have yet to enjoy.

From The Puffy Chair to HIFF’s opening Duplass success, where will the brothers venture next?  These are two film buffs who have proved their craft: even greater things to come.

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