This is Where I Leave You (Blu-ray)

December 15, 2014 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ahhh…family. It’s our most basic institution. It’s the one place where we can always call home and the only people in our lives that we can’t choose. That’s either really good or really bad, right?  I didn’t come from a large family, as I only had a younger brother. Sometimes I see larger families and wonder what it would have been like to have an older sibling or more than one. Not that I have any regrets and even if I did, it was pretty much out of my hands. At any rate, I’m happy with the hand I was dealt. Now what’s odd to me is that the term “dysfunctional” so often precedes the word “family.” Do we owe that to Dr. Phil?  Are most families crazy on some level?  Probably. Still, as a person of over 40 years now I can look back and can safely say that I’d have approached things differently when I was a teenager rather than now. For better or worse, we all make choices in life and some work out and others don’t.

After the loss of their father the various members of the Altman family are summoned back to their childhood home to grieve and mourn for seven days. Why seven days? The matriarch, Hillary (Jane Fonda), has decided to embrace her Jewish heritage and practice the shiva – an ancient ritual in which the family sits in chairs to mourn the loss of a loved one. We meet the main characters in Judd (Jason Bateman), Wendy (Tina Fey), Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll). Each has their own story – Judd has caught his boss (Dax Shepard) sleeping with his wife. Wendy is stuck in a loveless marriage. Paul and his wife (Kathryn Hahn) are trying to have a baby and Phillip, a feckless wannabe, is dating his much older new girlfriend, Tracy (Connie Britton).  The story follows these stories as they loosely intersect and throws in a few twists along the way like Penny (Rose Byrne) who’s always had a thing for Judd and so forth. But during this week of mourning, can the siblings try and mend their sordid lives or is this just one more bump in the road in the game of life?

Truthfully, despite some generally negative reviews, I actually enjoyed the film. Yes, it’s a bit tired and predictable, but I don’t think it can be argued the amount of talent in the cast. Actually, that might be the film’s downfall in that there’s so much talent, much of it goes unused. Bateman plays a more downtrodden version of, well, every other character he’s played on screen but he manages to pull of a pretty sympathetic part here. It’s also nice to see Tina Fey take it down a few notches as well as we see her more down to earth than she’s been in quite some time.  The most mysterious role seems to belong to Horry (Timothy Olyphant), a has been lover of Wendy who suffered brain damage from an accident.  Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jane Fonda, truly a legend of the big screen. And let me just say that “big” is the operative word here – I’ll say no more. There’s a quiet desperation in the film and it’s one that stayed with me after the credits rolled. Recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

There’s really not a lot wrong with the 2.40:1 AVC HD image on this Blu-ray. Colors are bold, bright and vivid and as we might expect, the detail is top notch showcasing even the slightest imperfection on screen (except Rose Byrne – she’s perfect). The majority of the film takes place indoors, so it lends itself to a more muted color palette, though some of the exterior shots really do look the part. There’s a scene in which a bright red sports car gets overturned, but the image is so amazingly rich and pure that I actually winced when the car was destroyed!  As is so often said, this is indicative as to what a major studio and a new to Blu-ray movie look like. No complaints here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Granted, the included DTS HD Master Audio mix isn’t one that will blow the roof off the house, but this is a very subtle track that gets the job done. Dialogue is at the heart of the film and the vocals are faithfully reproduced with the utmost clarity. Bateman’s calm and soothing voice resonates though the center channel and you feel as though you were right there in the room with him.  Surrounds kick in a few times, but the front stage handles the remainder of the mix with relative ease. It’s a good, straight-forward track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The movie comes to Blu-ray in a two disc set with several Blu-ray exclusives, let’s take a look.

DVD Extra

  • The Gospel According to Rabbi Boner – Ben Schwartz who plays Rabbi “Boner” in the film has a few various outtakes in this segment.

Blu-ray Exclusives

  • Points of Departure – Broken into four smaller segments, each focuses on a sibling (or two) and contains some cast and crew interviews as well as bit of behind the scenes footage.
      The Brother-Sister Bond

      The Matriarch

      Sibling Rivals

      Choreographed Chaos

  • Deleted Scenes – Several to choose from, though none really offer a lot of action and/or information to the film. It’s clear as to why they were cut.
  • The Narrative Voice: A commentary with Shawn Levy & Jonathan Tropper – This is an actual audio commentary for the film with director Shawn Levy and Jonathan Tropper, who wrote the novel. Both are very talkative throughout and provide a very light-hearted and entertaining track.
  • The Narrative Voice: A discussion with Shawn Levy & Jonathan Tropper – The same duo from above are now on camera and essentially deliver more of the same, albeit in a very shorter time span.
  • DVD/Digital HD Copy

Disc Scores