“Well, I’m no expert… But I think you’re gonna have to make much larger sacrifices down the road.”
There’s a reason why the concept of the ensemble piece is almost a genre of its own in story telling. When it comes to TV or movies, these stories really do live or die based on the strength of their cast. Seinfeld might have been a show about nothing, but the chemistry between the main cast made ‘nothing’ hilariously entertaining. It’s the same in movies, the slightest, most by the numbers story can be elevated to absolutely compelling if the ensemble clicks just right. I’m not saying This is Where I Leave You is overly slight or by the numbers, but I am saying it could have easily fallen into a blurry, syrupy mess, if it wasn’t for its ensemble cast.
Judd Atlman (Jason Bateman) heads home early one day to surprise his wife for her birthday. When he gets there, he finds her being taken to the Bone Zone by his boss. After a few months of being depressed and growing a beard (the standard movie indicator of depression), he receives a phone call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) telling him that their father has died. So it’s back to his home town for the funeral where his mother (Jane Fonda) insists she and all of her children sit shiva, the Jewish tradition of mourning at home for seven days. So now it’s time for the Altman family, complete with repressed older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and black sheep youngest brother Phillip (Adam Driver) to have the forced family reunion none of them want, but they all obviously need. (more…)