Comedy is hard... but then again, so is drama. Both genres can be hard to master, so you can imagine that creating a dramedy is nearly impossible. This genre grows year by year as filmmakers hope to create films that will have audiences entertained and compelled. The latest film in this genre comes from the man behind the Night at The Museum franchise, Shawn Levy. The director brings author Johnathan Trooper's work to life in the film This is Where I Leave You. Based on the novel by the same name, This Is Where I Leave You tells this story of a dysfunctional family trying to live together for a mandatory seven days. With a major ensemble and a tone that felt right for the genre, this film had my attention, but could This Is Where I Leave You actually capture the drama and humor found in a dysfunctional family?
To elaborate on the film's story, This Is Where I Leave You starts with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman). Things could not be worse for Judd as upon separating with his cheating wife, he discovers that his father has passed away. With his father's passing, Judd is reunited with his family: his sister Wendy (Tina Fey), his brothers Paul (Corey Stoll) and Phillip (Adam Driver) and his mother Hillary (Jane Fonda). Together with their loved ones, the families must endure Shiva. Which means the Altmans have to be together for seven days... but can they survive under one roof?
The biggest dilemma with the film was its pacing. The beginning felt rushed as it took no time for the Altmans to be reunited. Fortunately, the pacing does slow down but the plot also comes under the issue of not being able to establish its subplots. Like Wendy dealing with her feelings towards her ex-boyfriend Horry. There were many plot points to establish, but there was little time to develop all of them. While there are some issues with this dramedy's story, that is not to say This Is Where I Leave You's plot was not effective. While the subplots could not be fully established, they still made for moments that were sincere as well as enjoyable. When it came down to it, the story to this movie was about a dysfunctional family and it certainly felt dysfunctional, but in a good way.
To say this movie had an ensemble would be an understatement. Aside from the Altmans, the movie also starred Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Dax Shepard and Abigail Spencer. While there was no time to establish every character, the whole cast had their time to shine in this film. It is no surprise that the strongest element in the cast was the Altmans, particularly the siblings. There was a genuine chemistry between Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip. Whether it was a scene with Judd and Wendy or Judd and Phillip, the four Altmans felt like siblings which says a lot towards the actors' performances. It was also interesting to see both Jason Bateman and Tina Fey jump out of their comfort zones as I got to see the dramatic side from both actors. Jane Fonda provided a good role as the family's matriarch and together with the Altman siblings, this dramedy had a dynamic cast of characters.
Mixing humor with drama can be a tricky feat. You have to be able to blend both forms without one dominating the other. Thankfully, This is Where I Leave You was able to find a tolerable balance. It could be argued that the film had sporadic moments in both the drama and the humor which made it difficult to enjoy either element entirely. Yet the fluctuation between drama and comedy seemed to work in the favor of this particular dramedy. The comedy could be crude at times, but it was tolerable thanks to the film relying on the dialogue opposed to over-the-top antics. As for the drama, the moments felt right for the film's tone. While there could be one dramatic moment after another, the scenes were not too dramatic while still having the right sense of drama to get the point across. Shawn Levy's direction provided the right amount of drama and humor for This Is Where I Leave You which seemed fitting for any movie of this genre.
This is Where I Leave You may not the be most defining dramedy, but it is certainly a solid one. The movie had a genuine sense to it which made the aspects of drama and comedy easy to comprehend. With its great cast and touching moments, [This Is Where I Leave You](movie:404237) was a delightful film and it is one that any dysfunctional family can enjoy.