Judd: I don’t understand the Shiva. Mom’s not even Jewish, and dad was an atheist.
Wendy: A Jewish atheist, and this is what he wanted.
Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is a radio producer in NYC who finds his wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer), in bed w/ his boss/radio personality, Wade (Dax Shepard). A few mos. later, after Judd becomes divorced, his father passes away in their hometown upstate. His final wish is for the family to hold shiva (though their family wasn’t religious). Judd’s sister, Wendy (Tina Fey), is married w/ a toddler son. Judd’s mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda), is a famous therapist/author who overshares. Judd’s younger brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), is the “wild child” who runs his mouth, drives too fast, and is seeing an older woman. The eldest brother, Paul (Corey Stoll), takes care of the hardware store (the family biz) and is married to Annie (Kathryn Hahn); they are desperate to have a child. Judd runs into an younger friend of his, Penny Moore (Rose Byrne), who used to have a crush on him.
Judd: My marriage is over. I don’t have a job.
Hillary: That’s why you didn’t come see him these last few weeks? You thought he’d think less of you?
Judd: I think less of me. I’ve got nothing. Look at me. Way too old to have this much nothing.
Sitting shiva is the Jewish ritual of mourning after a loved one dies. The relatives of the deceased (his or her parents, children, siblings, and spouse) gather daily at one house and receive visitors who offer condolences (and often food). The Hebrew word “shiva” literally means seven, as the Altman’s family friend/rabbi (Ben Shwartz) explains. Hillary also explains that they need to sit in low chairs (as they are close to the earth).
Judd: It’s hard to see people from your past when your present is so cataclysmically screwed up, you know.
This isn’t technically a holiday movie, BUT it will give you many of the same vibes. The 4 adult sibs are forced to stay in their childhood home for 7 days- yikes! They retreat to the roles they had as kids (which is what you’d see in any family). There are secrets that will be uncovered- some small and some pretty life-changing. The cast is quite strong; they actually seem like a (dysfunctional) family. The actors have good chemistry together; it looks like making this movie was fun. However, there is TOO much going on! Some of the dialogue is quite touching, but there are also lines which come across as obvious, cliched, cringe-worthy. The hometown folks don’t have much characterization, as some critics/viewers commented; Penny comes across as a “manic pixie dream girl.”
Phillip: Dad was a stoner?
Judd: No, it was probably medicinal.
Phillip: It always is.
This movie was directed by Shaw Levy (Date Night, Stranger Things, Free Guy, etc.) and written by Jonathan Tropper (who also wrote the novel based on his own family’s stories). It’s nice to see Fonda, but I wish many of her lines were better. Bateman and Fey seem to usually play these type of roles and they do well. Stoll said this was his first time working on a comedy; he started in the theater and I liked him since House of Cards. Driver (before he became famous) is the lil bro who still has to grow-up; he plays the stock market and his love life is messy. Driver (funny/carefree) looked like he was enjoying this role; it was also the time when he was working on Girls. Stoll and Driver also acted together in The Report (which I will post about soon).