Stellar cast keeps 'Leave You' from being predictable

Tom Long
Detroit News Film Critic

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.

There's a sense of assembly to the ensemble comedy "This Is Where I Leave You," a feel of familiar jigsaw pieces put together just so.

The overbearing, bawdy grandmother? In attendance. The responsible older son and his irresponsible younger sibling? Yep. The brewing of an awkward romance between old flames? You betcha.

Still, better an efficient ship than a sinking one, and "This Is Where I Leave You" offers up one heck of a cast as well as some not-so-stereotypical satellite characters. So, even if we all know where things are going, the ride is enjoyable.

The film chiefly follows Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), a radio producer who has recently found his boss (Milford's Dax Shepard) in bed with his wife (Abigail Spencer). As he's weathering this life disruption another occurs — his father's death.

Returning to his small town roots for the funeral, Judd gathers with his family, your basic dysfunctional but loving group. They include Judd's mother (Jane Fonda), a memoirist who spills all the family secrets and has recently had some serious breast augmentation; his diligent older brother, Paul (Corey Stoll), his flaky younger brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), and his wry sister Wendy (Tina Fey).

These folks all come with their own attachments and complications, of course. Paul is trying to have a baby with his wife (Kathryn Hahn), who also happens to be Judd's ex-girlfriend. Phillip shows up with a yowza older gal (Connie Britton) who also turns out to be his therapist. And Wendy's in a loveless marriage with her husband (Aaron Lazar).

Don't think it ends there. Because Wendy still carries a torch for her high school beau (Timothy Olyphant, dryly perfect) who suffered a brain injury years back. And Judd runs into a woman (Rose Byrne) who had a crush on him in the day.

All these folks are crowded into a social pressure cooker of sorts when the family matriarch announces that her husband's final request was that the family sit shiva for him, forcing them to spend an entire week in close company. Secrets are revealed, rivalries irritated, romance is sparked and everyone is forced to look in a mirror and see their true selves.

Or something like that. In truth, there are a lot of wisecracks, some potty humor, some sex stuff and plenty of opportunities for Mom's new breasts to nearly burst out of whatever she's wearing. None of this is remotely unexpected, but the cast is such a perfect storm of wily veterans (Fonda, Bateman, Fey), up-and-comers (Driver, Stoll, Hahn) and nicely cast outliers (Britton, Olyphant) that the film never lags.

A lot of credit also has to go to director Shawn Levy ("Date Night," "Night at the Museum") and screenwriter Jonathan Tropper, adapting his own novel. Yes, you can see the construction crew plainly at work, but the house they've built still stands.

'This Is Where I Leave You'


Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use

Running time: 103 minutes