Their films are almost entirely made from their own original scripts and I think that is where the problems are. They write very weird scripts with strange forced moments and uncomfortable changes from slow to face pacing. They also have no idea how to end their movies, frequently going with an idea that doesn't totally work.
Their latest film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is another example of a movie that is interesting because it almost works, but ultimately falls apart when the pieces don't connected well.
The eponymous Jeff (Jason Segal) lives at home with his mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) in Baton Rouge. One day he gets a wrong-number phone call that convinces him to believe that there is a meaning to his otherwise ordinary, empty day. When Sharon (who is dealing with a secret admirer at work) sends him on an errand he gets sidetracked following up on the trail of the wrong-number.
He then bumps into his brother Pat (Ed Helms) who is dealing with a midlife crisis and the dissolution of his marriage to his wife Linda (Judy Greer). The two brothers go on an odyssey through south-eastern Louisiana looking for meaning in their boring, shity lives.
The biggest problem with the film is that it has way too much plot packed into a tiny shell. There is barely any room to breathe and almost no space to develop any emotions, as audience members, aside from what is clearly presented to us. It is clear who is good and who is bad, what forces are working with and against the characters -- but there is no ability to have any deeper connections to characters or their actions. What's that old chestnut about "comedy is tragedy plus time"? Well, here's it's really "comedy is tragedy plus no distance." Considering the central story is about Jeff and his weird Bloom-like day, strangely proving a fatalism in the midst of gonzo neorealism, we don't really need the side stories about Pat and Linda or Sharon.
I still have a sweet spot in my heart for the Duplasses, but desperately wish they could work on a film with another writer's script. I feel their intimacy with their process gets in their way and they can't see the shortcomings of their stories. This is probably a generally average example of their work (a far cry from The Puffy Chair or Baghead -- their two mumblecore features), but not entirely bad.
Stars: 2.5 of 4