Reading the Signs

Jeff, who lives at home, is a stoner, a lazy ass, a failure in many different senses of the word, a sci-fi geek and also a grown up. Jeff, however, is also passionate, kind-hearted, a dreamer and a believer. Jeff believes in destiny, he believes life has something special in store for him. He just doesn’t know what it is yet.

Driven by his ideals and beliefs, Jeff picks up a random sign given to him by “destiny” and chooses to follow it. He knows in his heart that the clue he was given will lead him to his purpose in life. There are no half measures with Jeff, he will not stop until he has achieved his goal.

From the less than average life that our anti-hero lives, in a household in which his mom (played by the ever so brilliant Susan Sarandon) could not be less supportive and understanding, Jeff finds himself in a less than fortunate situation. To make matters worse, Jeff’s path crosses with his prick of a brother, here embodied to perfection by none other than Ed Helms. From here on, the two brothers embark upon an unexpected adventure filled with inexplicable accidents and coincidences, each searching for his own unique goal. Their mother, oblivious to her boys’ shenanigans, sits at work dealing with her own mystery: a secret admirer that appears in her instant messaging service in the midst of a terrible personal crisis.

And so our characters go on their search for something; something that is not yet immediately clear to them, or the audience, but one that certainly becomes more and more intriguing, like in a good mystery that yearns to be solved.

I had the opportunity – via the kind invitation of Gen Art, to meet with one half of the Duplass brothers, Mark Duplass, who brilliantly co-wrote and co-directed the screenplay with his brother Jay.

Mark displayed nothing but fascination for Jeff’s unique way of embracing destiny and awe for the actors with which he and his brother were working. Mark explains: “This movie is more heavily plotted than our previous ones, it has many ins and outs, like a good detective story, but it still maintains a sense of improvisation, because the way the actors say their lines is totally their own, they recreate the lines, the script here works merely as a guideline to what is happening in their story, but the way they say it comes from their heads, and this is what keeps the movie exciting and fresh, and this is why we needed to have the help of these guys, Ed, Jason and Susan, who are so brilliant in what they do.”. Taking from cinema verite influences, the Duplass brothers continued to create freedom even in the way their scenes were shot, allowing their actors to perform without boundaries, much like a documentary, where a camera follows the subject and not the subject following the camera.

But the movie, which at times can take a few steps too far into its own charade, takes flight in its quiet metaphors for life that become more and more compelling towards the end – the metaphors that show us that there is after all a method to this whole madness, and that life has beauty in its system of working things out. The plan is often unclear, but the ability to enjoy the ride and appreciate the ups and downs is what makes the difference. To learn from our own mistakes, to grow and to graduate from them is the great accomplishment and, in some cases, the better-diploma.

Ed Helms, also at the event, had similar feelings about this movie. “At first I did not like this character, I thought he was a dick and I did not want to do it (the movie), but towards the end of the script I realized that Pat (his character) didn’t like Pat either and that he wanted to become a better person, that he saw where he needed improvement, and that made me want to be a part of this movie.”.

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is one of those movies that makes you feel, even at the worst of times, like there is always room for improvement, and that the possibilities in life are endless. As long as you trust fate and read the signs (whatever you think they may be), it is never too late to allow yourself to learn and pursue your own destiny. You still have, at any given time, a chance to make it in life.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home opens nationwide in the United States on March 16th, 2012

Author: Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha

writes for passion, eats for pleasure, travels for wonder.

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