Jeff (Jason Segel) is an aimless 30-something, still, as the title says, living at home. His brother moved out ages ago and lives with a wife in a difficult marriage, and his mother is desperately trying to get Jeff off his ass and doing something. But Jeff just drifts. He is easily distracted, wonders about his own destiny a lot while sitting in the bathroom. He just flows through life. Things get more hectic for him when his stressed-out brother drags him around town to spy on his wife.
Jeff is actually following signs of the universe. Jeff explains that he likes the Shyamalan movie Signs (2002), because of how all sorts of random happenings come together in that film in a perfect moment at the end that ties everything together. He thinks that he is getting signs as well, so he believes a TV commercial that says that he is going to have an important phone call. And the phone call is someone who dialed a wrong number and asks about Kevin. And then he sees a guy in the bus with the name Kevin on his shirt… and so on.
Good chemistry between Jason Segel and Ed Helms, who plays his brother Pat and is like his opposite in every way. He is businesslike, hotheaded and assertive and has to deal with Jeff’s mess. It is nice seeing Helms playing a role other than a weak dad. For once I don’t hate the guy. Jeff and Pat present two wildly different outlooks on life but they’re both irresponsible in their own way. Poor mam Susan Sarandon who is stuck in between.
The movie is exceedingly random. Jeff and Pat are forced to cooperate for a day, and while they are running through the city, their mom has little adventures at her office. But Jeff warned us about this with his Signs explanation, didn’t he? It is going to be random but it is all going to end up in one nice moment, right? So the film itself is basically a series of rather random happenings in which Jeff gets ensnared in the marital problems of his brother Pat.
It’s a comedy, but it’s also an exploration of Jeff and Pat as characters. They are both drifting in their own way, both irresponsible. One is calm and vague, the other high-strung and an overachiever, but they both sort of end up in the same places. Halfway through the film, it starts getting clear what is going on here, and this is a deeper film than a comedy of randomness. All characters in this movie are dealing with the same great void: the absence and loss of Jeff and Pat’s father. That’s a heavy theme, but the movie deals with it in a lighthearted way that not at all trivializing something tragic, but more life affirming. It is a tragicomedy.
It’s a feel-good film, first about funny characters, and then about tragic characters who are getting back in touch with themselves. It starts to feel wonderful when Jeff and Pat are opening up to each other and learning something from each other. Jeff maybe a drifting vague guy, but he teaches his brother to listen to his gut. To think about what is really important to him in his life. The eventual ideas about personal fate and listening to the universe feel a bit forced. It makes for a nice setup of the story, but it ends as no more than a footnote.
Conclusion: A short film, small in setup and story but big in heart. It is worth checking out for some low key comedy and touching moments.