'This Is Where I Leave You': What the Critics Are Saying

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn and Jane Fonda star in Shawn Levy's family dramedy

This Is Where I Leave You, out Friday, adapts Jonathan Tropper's beloved novel for the big screen and brings Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn and Jane Fonda (plus her boobs) into the same house to sit shiva.

The Warner Bros. ensemble dramedy — directed by Shawn Levy and also featuring Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer and Ben Schwartz — is predicted to open in the low to mid teens.

Read what top critics are saying about This Is Where I Leave You:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy calls it "a potty-mouthed comedy with enough exasperation, aggravations, long-standing grievances and get-me-outta-here moments of family stress to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had to endure large clan gatherings that might have lasted a bit too long. ... Everyone here is obnoxious to one degree or another, but enough of it amusing in an appalling sort of way that it’s difficult to not be at least partly won over by the brashness of the compulsively uncensored talk and behavior."

Of the star-studded cast, "Fonda dominates every scene she’s in; this is her most successful film appearance since she returned to acting in 2005 after a 15-year layoff, as well as a reminder of her screen roots in comedy. Playing it low-keyed compared to everyone else in the cast, Bateman maintains just enough sympathy as a bit of a sad-sack who admits he’s never taken a risk in life, while Britton excels in the film’s one touching scene. ... The other performers well know where the laughs are and go for them expediently. Levy’s orchestration of the mayhem is silky smooth."

The New York Times' A. O. Scott instead sees it as "a lifeless, laughless sitcom-soap that stumbles from one generic situation to the next. There is almost nothing here that you haven’t seen a dozen times before, and even the surprises feel flat and familiar. More dispiriting still is that this drab complacency is wrapped around messages of daring, honesty and spontaneity." Of the family and its adjacent characters, "each character in the movie is a bundle of traits in search of a personality, which the audience struggles to fill in based on previous associations with the actor in question" and "actors struggle with parts that are stock figures rather than fully imagined people." Additionally, the screenplay lost the "timing, structure and psychological insight" of Tropper's novel.

Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey appreciates the understated approach. "The performances are dialed down by the high-profile cast; no one in the ensemble tries to outshine the others, no scene-stealing here. It's as if Levy set the button very close to mute. Director of photography Terry Stacey and the rest of the crew follow suit. That might not be interesting enough, challenging enough for some. But for others weary of the intensity of family fiascoes that more typically make their way to the big screen these days, the slightly frayed but still warm bonds of this family may be appealing."

On the other hand, USA Today's Claudia Puig disliked Levy's "delicate touch," giving the film two-and-a-half stars out of four. "Where the fusion of raucous humor and tender emotion highlighted flashes of insight in the 2009 book, the movie adaptation is substantially blander. Amid the top-notch ensemble cast, some actors have substantial chemistry. ... Their exploits, however, leave the viewer wanting something deeper and funnier."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips observes, "Nobody's miscast, if you don't count the director. ... Levy is a hard-sell man. He pushes the material so hard, it's as if he were working on commission. ... The movie's painless. It's OK. And with this cast, OK is disappointing."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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