Jane Fonda in “This Is Where I Leave You”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

Jane Fonda 600x300
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Jonathan Tropper
Main Cast: Jason Bateman, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hahn, Corey Stoll, and more…
Past Oscar relations: Jane Fonda is a two time Academy Award winner, taking home statues for Coming Home as well as Klute

Today we have another article in this ongoing series of mine concerning the 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of actual Oscar attention as a contender at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here folks is the ensemble dramedy This Is Where I Leave You, which hopes to be the latest dysfunctional family to appeal to the Academy. Can it actually do it? Let’s discuss that possibility a little bit below…

This film follows the Altman family as they’re forced to be under one roof for the first time as adults in the wake of their patriarch’s death. All manner of comedic, dramatic, and emotional beats are subsequently hit between siblings and their significant others, as well as by their mother, played by Jane Fonda. The cast also includes the aforementioned Jason Bateman, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Tina Fey, Kathryn Hahn, and Corey Stoll, in addition to the likes of Connie Britton, Debra Monk, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schwartz, Dax Shepard, and Abigail Spencer, to name a few. They all interact with each other in both zany and oddly believable ways. Comedy filmmaker Shawn Levy went lower budget and more serious here than usual in directing novelist Jonathan Tropper’s winning book. Tropper himself even wrote the adaptation himself. It all adds up to something that I was very interested in seeing, being a fan of the novel. Luckily, the core of the story has been successfully translated to the screen.

What this flick has going in its favor is the chemistry between cast members and the screenplay. Tropper’s script is very clever and a faithful, if streamlined, adaptation of the book. The cast, especially Driver and Fonda, are excellent, hitting beats across the whole emotional spectrum. The tone here is a tricky thing, but Tropper and the cast really do hit it. In a perfect world, both that screenplay and Fonda’s scene stealing turn would be up for awards consideration.

Working against This Is Where I Leave You is the fact that reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival were lukewarm and frankly the Academy doesn’t usually jive towards something like this. Family dramedies have warmed Oscar’s heart, but not one that seems so mainstream, at least on the outset. Most of my colleagues are also pretty “meh” on the flick, so it could be very easy for voters to just up and ignore it. Perhaps if it’s really successful, the movie could surge back into consideration, but something tells me that the odds aren’t in its favor.

So, can this be a player at all? My hunch is that This Is Where I Leave You is destined to be more of a crowd pleaser than an awards contender, but Fonda has an outside chance of sneaking into a Best Supporting Actress lineup. I’d have liked Best Adapted Screenplay to be in play for Tropper too, but that really seems like wishful thinking to me. Alas, though the flick is worth seeing, believe me, it’s likely to not really wind up doing too much to appeal to an Oscar voter. That takes nothing away from it, but it’ll take a surprising turn of events for it to be in play for more than just success at the box office…

Grade: Long Shot Contender (give or take Fonda)

Stay tuned for another one of these profiles coming your way in the next week or two!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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