Mark and Jay Duplass have spent the last few years building toward a breakthrough, mainstream moment. Their last film, Cyrus, was a solid entry that displayed a bit of maturity behind the camera and fell just short of being a very good movie. As both writers and directors, the pair has a tremendous amount of talent that oozes through everything they do and personally, I believe it’s only a matter of time until they make a transcendent indie film.
JWLAH is not that film, however, and that frustrated me a bit. Of course, it is unfair to hold a film to my own personal expectations or to demand something of a film that its filmmakers never intended it to be. Still, though, I was prepared for this film to be a major accomplishment and instead it only partially satisfied. When JWLAH is at its best, it truly feels like a day in the life of Jeff, who is brought to life impressively by Segel, who continues to prove what a tour de force he really is. Jeff is a pained soul whose rosy outlook on life is as much a mask for his struggles as anything else but for me, the Duplass brothers don’t go far enough down this road. I felt like there was so much more to Jeff than the audience is made privy to and that sticks out as a symptom of what is wrong with the film. In truth, the fatal flaw here is that JWLAH mires itself in the kiddie pool rather than striking out for deeper waters. As Jeff and Pat scurry about town, I found myself desperately wanting to connect with their stories but coming up empty.