‘This is Where I Leave You’ – Jane Fonda helps younger actors shine

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

As the matriarch of the dysfunctional family in  “This is Where I Leave You,” Jane Fonda, does a very clever thing.

She sports a pair of boobs so perky and, well, sizable, that almost everyone on screen makes a joke about her new enhancements. I have no idea whether these babies are real or photo-shopped, but either way, they serve an important function.

They distract us from wondering how much cosmetic work she has or has not had on her face.

That’s not the only smart thing she does. Fonda also cedes most of the spotlight to the able younger cast who play her assorted grown-up children and their spouses/ex’s/significant others/whatevers.

And they are, indeed, quite a talented bunch — so much so they make a so-so script entertaining.

The premise is reasonably solid and reasonably amusing. When their father dies, four siblings and their accoutrements (see spouses, etc. above) come home to be with their Mom and pay their respects. What they haven’t counted on is their dad’s final request.

According to Fonda, even though he was a non-practicing Jew and an atheist, he would like the family to sit shiva for the traditional seven days. (Shiva is a bit like a wake, only longer and with more bagels.)

So everyone settles in for a week of forced togetherness. Since none of the family is particularly close, there are difficulties. Nothing cataclysmic a la last year’s  “August, Sage County,” but certainly enough mid-level crises to keep our attention.

Going into specifics would spoil the few surprises the picture offers. It’s enough to know that Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, Rose Byrne and several others, bring warmth as well as a certain comic snappiness to the goings-on. Meaning, the movie is perfectly efficient — and likable — whether jerking tears or soliciting laughs.

One thing that eluded me, however, was, the meaning of the title – “This is Where I Leave You?”

I have the feeling that something’s been left out.  You may, too.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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