By Katherine Burke
This month saw big names in comedy, such as Tina Fey, Jane Fonda and Jason Bateman, do something out of their comfort zone. Walking into “This is Where I Leave You,” based on a book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, you may expect a laugh, a joke or something of that nature. And while you might crack a smile and laugh a bit, it’s that type of laugh that comes when a movie hits close to home — when real life is portrayed in such a way as to evoke real emotions.
“This is Where I Leave You” follows a family as they begin to grieve over the recently deceased father through the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva. Required to spend seven days together, the adult children of the family must learn to like each other, all while remembering why they loved their brothers and sister in the first place.
Along with the overarching themes of both death and learning to love, each family member must deal with his or her own issues, including infertility, adultery, depression and anger. It sounds like quite the uplifting film, right? While it does have moments of terrible sadness (and to be honest, what family doesn’t?), the movie is hopeful, hilarious and silly. Judd, the second oldest son in the family and the main character for the film, is played by Jason Bateman.
The viewer watches his marriage go into a tailspin, with unfortunate circumstances unendingly heaping more drama into his life. At the same time, you want to cheer for his small victories as he attempts to move on from the end of his former life.
Sometimes, you can tell when a movie has been adapted from a novel. You can see that the plot arcs are more developed, the characters are more nuanced and the dialogue has much more hidden meaning.
In the case of “This is Where I Leave You,” it is clear that the writer of the novel was very involved in the creation of the film. When reading the novel, I could imagine the characters as they appeared in the film. However, there are some differences. At the risk of giving away parts of the plot, the novel allows for a faster pace of drama. At times unbelievable, the novel has been tamed down for the film audience and seems more like a family going through a series of terrible, but very real, events.
In short, this is a valuable movie to watch and maybe a better story to read. Regardless of format, “This is Where I Leave You” reaches audiences in an emotional way.