Like little league and the learner’s permit, a crush on Susan Sarandon, famed for her garter belts and progressive politics, has become a rite of passage for a young man. She was the alluring older woman, first to Tim Robbins in Bull Durham (1988) and then to James Spader in White Palace (1990). In Jeff Who Lives at Home, the latest from Jay and Mark Duplass, she does it again, sort of. She plays Sharon, the mother of Jeff (Jason Segel) who as the title says is still living at home at age 30. There’s no job (other than an assignment from Mom to repair a shelf) and no girlfriend. At one point, he stalks a black teenage boy because his name is Kevin, a name that came up in a dream. Jeff sees “signs” everywhere. He’s stomped for his trouble. This is an unsettling comedy with metaphysical overtones.
Writer/Actor/Puppeteer Segel [Bad Teacher (2011)], admitted to The San Francisco Chronicle that he leapt at the chance to work with Sarandon, “the object of a lifelong crush.” Apparently, any suggestion to have Jeff walk in on Mom in her underwear fell on deaf ears. Until the finale, most of their interactions take place over the phone.
Now over 60, Sarandon continues to amaze and delight. Even in cinematographer Jas Shelton’s close-ups, she appears about 40. An office flirtation with co-worker Carol (Rae Dawn Chong) is unconvincing and doesn’t add up to much. There’s another of Jeff’s possible “signs” when the office sprinklers come on unexpectedly, while the camera lingers on Sharon getting wet.