With an impressive cast full of star names just not quite lofty enough to demand more screen time, this ensemble drama from Shawn Levy shoots purposefully broad, sporadically succeeding.
The film opens with middle child Judd (an always watchable Bateman) returning home from his job as a hotshot producer on a blokey radio show in New York hosted by Dax Shepard. Leaving work a little early, he promptly returns to his swish gaff to find his wife being shagged by Shepard. Not sound. Not sound at all. Then, as if life was teaching him a lesson of some sort, he receives a phone call from his sister (Fey), telling him his father has passed away. At the wishes of his dying father, the entire family must spend a week together to ostensiblymourn and reconnect.
Levy is one of those directors not particularly known for a certain genre or style of filmmaking. But he has had huge hits (The Night at the Museum series, Date Night) and that deft box office touch obviously helped attract these kinds of names to a production that would've undoubtedly flown under the radar otherwise. Showing a strong tonal hand balancing the obviously dramatic elements of mourning with some more quirky interactions, Bateman as the core of the movie is the perfect counterpart to whoever he's sharing a scene with. That innate everyman quality he effortlessly possesses rendering him a great fit for the role of the sometimes forgotten middle child.
Where the film doesn't always work is when more interesting relationships rear their heads only to be seemingly forgotten. Fey and Timothy Olyphant's tragic young love story begs for more time, while Jane Fonda absolutely owns every scene she's in, making what could have been an overbearing mother on paper, not just likeable but layered.
There's also a general feeling that you're only going to go so deep. While this is a family drama and the family fight, cry, laugh and love like any siblings, it would've worked far better as a short series. That said, you'd have to be made of stone for some of the scenes, particularly towards the end, not to resonate.
For a game cast and a few all too familiar moments played fittingly on point by said cast, This is Where I Leave You is just about worth your time.