I had occasion to see an interesting movie the other day. It came highly recommended by some folks I know, so I took them at their word and went to see it. Oddly enough, I had to take time out of a very busy day to squeeze it in…a fact that will fit in in a moment.
It was called Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
Strange title, right?
Well, great movie.
The premise – (MINOR SPOILERS) – Jeff (Jason Segel), is a stoner who lives at home. His mother (Susan Sarandon) calls from the office and asks him to do one thing for him that day. Just one thing. But on his way out the door, a mysterious phone call puts a name in his head that starts him on a quest that leads him (and, eventually his whole family, including his brother Pat (Ed Helms)), on a collision course with destiny.
Now, the interesting thing about the movie is that this premise has been done before. Many times before. In fact, movies have been named after the central thread of serendipity that runs through the screenply. However, there’s nothing cliché about Jeff, Who Lives at Home. As the movie progresses, we fall in love with the seemingly ne’er-do-well Jeff and come to really support his unique way of looking at the world. In the end, we come to believe that the destiny that finds him is really something that was suited for him – especially tailored by the universe to his situation. Something he deserves. Something he earned through earnest worldview.
Jeff’s lifestyle isn’t what many would call “responsible” or “popular.” In fact, his brother Pat, appears to have it all – Porsche, job, wife – but appearances can be deceiving. In fact, without Jeff’s intervention (the last person on earth Pat would want advice from), Pat could lose it all.
The movie is a dramedy heavy on small laughs. But as I watched, I became less interested in the jokes and more interested in the message. What is it? Well, to my untrained eye it seems to be the idea that we may not know why something is happening or why someone is acting in a certain way. But there’s quite possibly a reason. Quite possibly a plan. And, here’s the most important part: we may not like it and we may not understand it, but perhaps…just perhaps…there is an order to the madness. A meaning. A point of view that we didn’t consider, but that is essential to the one who holds it. In other words, it may not make sense to us, but it makes sense to them.
Much of the drama of life isn’t created by how people act, but by how we react. We think people ought to be doing this or that for us or that they owe us this or that, but in fact, it’s our own insecurities or fears that create the discomfort. Jeff has his own journey. He has to do what he has to do. And all the critics, haters, and non-believers are just blips on a radar screen leading him to what he knows is right.
Jeff is a solitary, lonely person. He has a worldview that he has created to deal, cope, and adjust. He screams at one point that no one understands him. But, that’s just the cry of frustration. They do understand, but sometimes it just takes a bit longer for real understanding to surface. Sometimes people need to go on their own journey of self-discovery first before they’re ready to accept another’s journey.
Lucky for Jeff, he took his own path anyway.
This isn’t a movie that will be around for long. Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass have written and directed a gem that will soon be seen only by the lucky few who get a DVD word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend. Jason Segel and Ed Helms will soon be on to other projects that will gross much higher in the box office.
But if you get a chance, go see it. Don’t take your judgments. Don’t take your hard edge. Soften to Jeff. Be sympathetic to his personal plight, whether you think it’s laziness or something else. Give in to the message.
And, above all else, remember this – just because you don’t understand another’s path doesn’t mean it isn’t valid to them. If you start the day in that light, you might just find that many of your daily frustrations, fears, and judgments melt away.
And if not? Well, let’s hope others continue to pursue their paths anyway. The stakes might not be as high as they are for Jeff, but hey…in the end, our lives all need to mean something to us, whether or not anyone else understands.