Too often it seems that movies drag audiences along, grabbing your shirt with this or that big moment or burst of noise, insisting that you come along, even if you're not all that excited about doing so.
But there are other films, usually smaller ones, that put their arm around you and invite you on a little trip. We'll have a nice time together, they say, we'll get to know each other.
I am thinking of movies like Footnote, the Israeli comedy-drama coming to DVD and Blu-ray on July 24, or current theatrical releases like Your Sister's Sister or Peace, Love and Misunderstanding. And I am thinking about Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Paramount, $19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray).
That film stars Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, The Muppets) as the title's Jeff, a pot-smoking do-nothing who lives in his widowed mother's basement and spends a lot of time pondering the meaning of life. Having seen the movie Signs way too often, he is firmly convinced of omens and spiritual connections. His mother (Susan Sarandon) just wishes he would do more around the house. Not much more, but something.
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Jeff also has a brother, Pat (Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover), who has a job and a wife (Judy Greer) but is as miserable about his life as Jeff is aimless in his. When Jeff, convinced he has seen a sign, heads off on an uncertain quest, he finds it overlaps with Pat and Pat's problems -- and circles around to their mother as well.
Jeff was written and directed by the brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus). (Mark is in front of the camera in Your Sister's Sister.) With Jeff, they have constructed an amusing series of events that at times seem headed nowhere but are carefully interlocked. Only at the end, when all the pieces snap together, does it feel overly contrived. Up to that point, it kept me amused and for the most part avoided predictability.
Segel is an amiable, vulnerable stoner, and Helms is so wrapped up in anger and frustration that he has all but erased his basic decency. And Sarandon, whose character has issues going beyond parenting, is fine at balancing steadiness, longing and anxiety; there's one scene where she manages to convey all that just with a shift of her head and eyes.
The movie is rated R, and the language more than justifies it. The DVD and Blu-ray are disappointing in their utter lack of extras. But the movie charmed. And never did I feel dragged into it.
You can study another movie for signs and omens of a different kind. It's Wanderlust (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo pack), which is notable for being the place where Jennifer Aniston met her current beau, Justin Theroux. When you're not looking for evidence of chemistry, you may follow the story of a Manhattan couple (Aniston and Paul Rudd) whose travels take them to a community with, as the video promises, "hippies, tree-huggers, and the occasional nudist."
Reviews were mixed, and the box-office returns unimpressive, but the DVD and Blu-ray packages pile on the extras, including deleted scenes, extended ones, bloopers, and a, uh, closer look at the use of a prosthetic penis in the film. The Blu-ray also offers a shorter, alternate cut of the movie with different jokes in every scene.
Jeff's fixation on the marvels underlying randomness also made me think of My Afternoons With Margueritte (New Video, $29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray), a French film (with English subtitles) about what happens when two people sit next to each other in a park one day. The two are played by the burly Gerard Depardieu and the seemingly frail Gisele Casadesus, who was 95 when she made this film (titled in French La Tete en Friche). Reviewers were generally positive when it arrived in theaters in 2010, particularly about the two leads. No extras.
Down video road
The Kent Chronicles -- the TV miniseries The Bastard, The Rebels, and The Seekers -- will be released in a single DVD set July 31.