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JASON BATEMAN IN THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

2014 rating: **1/2
While seeming like another AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, where an eclectic lot reunites after the death of a beloved yet mysterious patriarch, both films are reminiscent inspirations of THE BIG CHILL… A collection of polar opposites gathered in one place where personalities collide, but in an ultimately optimistic, life-affirming sense… The usual.

In SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, Bradley Cooper went to the nuthouse after catching his wife having sex with another man – so let’s give Jason Bateman’s Judd Altman some credit… He keeps it all inside, and remains pretty cool, but is forced to spend a week with people he’d much rather avoid… An equal penance, maybe.

Judd is the clean slate main character, allowing the other family members to shine and/or attempt stealing scenes, especially black sheep little (yet very tall) brother Philip, played by Adam Driver, who gets all the best lines but there’s something missing. His wild card is too forced, contrived. And Bateman relies on his usual glib reactions for every unpredictable element...

Which also includes blunt advice from Tina Fey’s Wendy, his older sister and a somewhat wasted character throughout, given a quickie affair with a neighbor that amounts to little. Tina deserved better. And their famous author mom, Hillary, who has a brand new set of breasts and a secret revealed later on… Veteran actress Jane Fonda, in playing a woman too open-minded to everything around her, isn't very interesting.

While the situations are often humorous, and the dialogue is natural and laidback, this particular reunion feels a bit staged, showcasing an American family the director assumes we know more than we actually do. Never given a chance to delve into these people beyond their lusty one-liners and worldly bantler, it’s like over-hearing a party next door instead of actually attending.
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