While everyone and their mom’s been waiting to see “Prometheus”, I’ve been counting down the days until “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” made its way to Redbox. Yesterday was that day and it was definitely worth the wait. It had all the elements I look forward to from the Duplass Brothers, plus dynamic performances from my favorite TV guys, Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Ed Helms (“The Office”). I wasn’t a huge fan of the constant music score cues, but the film itself is a memorable adventure. Why, oh why wasn’t a Duplass Brothers movie screened in any of my film classes?
Seriously, I’ve only seen four films from these guys – either directed, produced or starring in (“Jeff”, “The Do-Deca-Pentathalon”, “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Safety Not Guaranteed”), but so far I’m hooked. Prior to hearing Mark Duplass speak at Sundance, I’d written off the mumblecore movement as shaky cam low-budget wandering protagonist ponderings on life from the male perspective. In other words, not for me. I think that’s the pitfall of being an audience member/film student who’s removed from the trending artist. I mentioned in my post from Sundance about Mark’s bold “We greenlit ourselves” statement when someone asked about his collaborating with Lynn Shelton for “Your Sister’s Sister”.
Both Jay and Mark Duplass have given me a lot to chew on, especially when it comes to what an independent filmmaker’s work ethic should be. As collaborators, they are churning out project after project from festival favorites to major studio features on a consistent basis. I noticed a few of their cinematic aesthetics even in “Jeff” that I plan to adapt for my future project such as using largely exterior locations, 2 or 4 main characters and a story exploring family dynamics/close friendships. I also respect the many hats the brothers wear: producer, director, camera operator, screenwriter. It’s the producer hat that I find most refreshing especially since at the “Safety” screening, Mark commented that when filmmakers can’t get their project off the ground, they go to him and his brother because they can do it on the cheap. Not a bad reputation to have, when the scripts are as wonderfully original as “Safety” was. Mark Duplass is another filmmaker that has made himself very accessible on Twitter, even giving a live DVD commentary for the “Jeff” release date.
I instantly noticed that “Jeff” was very similar to another “more traditional” Duplass film called “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon”, a film about two rival brothers who compete in 25-event competition. “Do-Deca” was the lost project that got shelved when the guys were making “Cyrus”, their first studio film. Both “Jeff” and “Do-Deca” feature a pair of brothers constantly at each others’ throats. These characters are absolutely misunderstood by outsiders, especially their family. In the Duplass style, the films themselves act as a magnifying glass on the ordinary. I kinda felt like “Jeff” was “Do-Deca” with studio money (Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon ain’t cheap, ya’ll). Still felt just as rich, which is a rare feat for any indie director. With these guys, it seems that success comes from telling small stories with extraordinary characters that speak to a lot of universal experiences.
There’s no shortage of new Duplass films available this summer, so help yourself to:
- “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” now out on DVD.
- “Safety Not Guaranteed” is out in theaters for limited release. Produced by the Duplass Bros and stars Mark Duplass.
- “Your Sister’s Sister” is out in theaters for limited release. Produced by and stars Mark Duplass.
- “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” hits theaters July 6th.