Lead Actors: Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Timothy Oliphant, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne
Producer: Jesse Ehrman
This movie is based on a novel by Jonathon Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay.
It follows the Altman family after the death of its patriarch. The four Altman siblings and their mother, played wonderfully by Jane Fonda, are left to deal with the aftermath, and each other. To complicate things, Fonda's Hilary Altman insists that the Altma's sit through the seven days of Shiva. She says it was her husband's dying wish.
This makes things interesting because the Altmans, who love each other very much, don't sit around and do nothing very well. While they are "sitting" back in their hometown (a generic, small east coast town from all I could tell) old flames are re-united, inter-sibling conflicts are revisited and, of course, secrets are revealed.
There is a lot going on, and focus is not this movie's strong point, but it does manage to follow Jason Bateman's Judd Altman the closest. We meet him as a non-smiling producer of a radio show, "Man Up", and quickly witness him being cuckolded in the worst way (he comes home to his wife having rough sex with his boss as hip hop music blares on the stereo).
When Judd goes back home he is able to reacquaint himself with his own strengths and weaknesses and also try to figure out why things ended up the way they did for him.
Intersecting through all of that are the lives of Wendy Altman (played beautifully by Tina Fey) - who is a loveable, strong presence who was very clearly toughened up at an early age in an all-male family.
Fey, who was the first ever female head writer at Saturday Night Live, seemed to fit very naturally in this scenario as she slaps, kicks, bites and lovingly insults with the best of them. In a touching scene, Adam Driver's Philip Altman credits Wendy for being the glue to their brood, a compliment she gladly accepts.
Philip is admittedly a jack ass and an ass-man all tied up into one who didn't seem to get the focus, discipline or work ethic embodied by his two oldest siblings. He shows up late to his own father's funeral in a Porsche, cussing as he runs up the hill to join the ceremony.
Cory Stoll does a good job of playing the stronger, less interesting Paul Altman who inherited his father's hardware store.
Circling around the loving family circus that is the Altman's is an even bigger cast of characters. They all seem to be attracted to the legendary dysfunction of the Altmans. In one scene Paul Altman has sex with his wife who yearns to be pregnant and it is broadcast into a full living via a baby monitor. Rather than turn it down, Philip turns the sounds of carnal fun UP for the very full living room of visitors to enjoy.
One notable standout in the supporting cast is Rose Byrne, who plays an ice-skating underachiever who never stopped loving Judd Altman. Byrne hides some of her innate beauty in this role, but bubbles with charm, and could easily be a character in a John Hughes movie from the 80s.
Who Would Like it and Why
Fans of Tina Fey.
Fans of Jason Bateman will enjoy another understated and subtle performance. I especially enjoyed a scene where he confronts his cheating wife against a back drop of fall colors. Fans of Timothy Olyphant. Olyphant shines here as a brain damaged friend of the family and former lover of Wendy.
Who Might not Like it and Why
The movie lacks focus and goes all over the place too often. The audience is asked to fall in love with a rabbi whom everyone refers to as "Boner" and was also a contemporary of the family, but his character is underdeveloped. There were enough plots and subplots for twenty movies here.
The acting was so strong for each character that I would gladly watch each character's story play out individually in more focused two-hour vignettes.
Dax Sheppard plays the man who cuckolds Bateman. This scene is probably one of the most intense in the whole movie, as Bateman's hearing goes out once he realizes what's happened.
The ice skating scenes with the beautiful Byrne are magical and hopefully another movie in and of themselves. I also enjoyed a site gag where Hilary Altman's boobs keep popping out of her dress while she makes Judd's bed with him.
Two Mike and Ikes.