In this movie we open with Jason Segel as a weed smoking yogi who is looking for the patterns in the universe to decode and imbibe meaning upon. Jason/Jeff gives this monologue during the opening credits about the movie ‘Signs’ (lol) where he states that the movie is great because it appears to be random, but really it’s all building up to a perfect moment with the little girl: everyone thinks she’s weird/crazy because she can’t finish glasses of water (umm what) because she thinks they’re contaminated, but really that’s what saves everyone in the end (weird people ftw!). So I mean, it’s an interesting monologue, and it sets this movie up well, but anyone who gleans essential life meaning/depth from Signs is clearly a little off their rocker.
Susan Sarandon is in this movie as the ‘mother’ and I put that in quotes because from their first conversation it’s clear she is tapping into the very essence of what that word and that relationship denotes. She’s is THE mother. That type- calling to remind you to do something that you were already going to do and is not important anyway it’s just something she asked you to do in the first place. That kind of mother.
The Jeff narrative is designed so we see the world from his perspective where different things are important than are to most people and it becomes understandable how he follows these impulses which lead him so far astray from what society and his family wants from him. I.e how he ended up thirty and smoking weed living in his mom’s basement which is unacceptable to everyone else, but to him is a viable option.
To illustrate this insight into his world, we see someone calls the house asking for ‘Kevin.’ After he tells them a Kevin doesn’t live there, they insist that he does and that they need to speak to him. It’s also mentioned that this is not the first call for Kevin to the house. So Jeff writes all the anagrams for Kevin onto a piece of paper until he finally gets to ‘knive’ he then picks up a knife and we’re not sure what he’s going to do until the tension is cut (pun intended) when his mom/Susan calls telling him he needs to fix the shutter, (THOSE CALLS) that that’s all she wants for her birthday is for him to fix the shutter before she gets home . So he gets on the bus to get some wood glue (who doesn’t have that lying around?) but then we see someone get on the bus, and the name on the back of his jersey is ‘Kevin.’ So he gets off at Kevin’s stop, and follows him to a basketball court. Someone gets injured and he gets put in the game and he and Kevin seem to be friends. Kevin invites him to smoke weed (young male version of, wanna get coffee?) and it seems good but then Kevin’s friend comes and he beats up and robs Jeff.
Ed Helms is Jeff’s egotistical and somewhat selfish older brother Pat. The two brothers are completely yin and yang. Jeff is an idyllic dreamer and Pat is an aggressive porsche driver. He buys said porsche after his girlfriend says they don’t have enough money but he does it anyway, then later that day he drunkenly crashes it into a tree. I’m no therapist but yikes.
We’re sort of dancing between narratives throughout the movie, Jeff and his brother, and Susan Sarandon at her office. She has a romantic (?) poetic online stalker who seems somewhat botanically minded. Throughout a series of AIM conversations, the person has identified themselves as a co-worker and says they have a crush on her, but they won’t reveal who they are. (The only completely unbelievable part of this movie is that people still use AIM, even if that person is a sixty year old woman). Susan Sarandon presents this romance to her co-worker friend (A WOMAN) as something she can’t believe as anything but a joke.
Throughout the movie Jeff keeps waiting and looking for ‘signs’ from the universe. After a tumultuous afternoon following Pat’s wife because they think they have caught her having an affair, the brothers end up at their father’s grave. Pat shares this recurring dream he has about their father: They are both with him alone in a classroom and he asks them what the greatest day in the history of the world is and finally he tells them ‘today.’ Jeff is astonished because he often has the same dream. Jeff tries to hug his brother after this but Pat writes it off remarking that it must have just been something their father said. This provokes an outburst from Jeff,”What is wrong with you? Why do you want to be like this?” He gets mad at Pat because he continually writes away the intricacy and beautiful-ness of the universe. It becomes incredibly clear that they each think the other is stupid for thinking and acting the way they do. So they get in a graveyard fight. It ends with a particularly sad assertion from Jeff: “You and mom will never understand me and you’re all I have left.” Then he gets on a truck that says the word ‘Kevin’ on the side of it and rides away. (MOVIE CLUES!!!)
Pat copes by crying in a Hooters while watching a video of someone surfing. Actually. Jeff in his pursuit of another Kevin clue, finds himself in a sort of low rent Chuck E Cheese (can’t be good). Meanwhile, cabbing it home from the Hooters Pat sees his wife’s car at this hotel parking lot so he goes in and tries to lie his way through the concierge so he can ‘Cheaters’ style bust in on his wife and this dude Steven (the one who they spied her having lunch with earlier who I thought was gay but isn’t) but hotel security is rather tight in Baton Rouge, LA so he gets turned away.
Meanwhile the Kevin truck has taken Jeff to his brother at this hotel!! Synchonisity! But then not-gay adulterer Steven comes into where they’re discussing their options so they of course wedge themselves behind the vending machine. Rational choice. Following Steven they end up outside the door of Pat’s wife’s potential indiscretions. At this point the movie can go one of two ways- either she is having the affair and it’s a tragedy or she isn’t & he’s gay and it’s a comedy. BUT THEN the movie in an interesting turn, reveals that Steven is NOT gay and she’s not cheating, but it’s not completely plutonic either. This is where I gained a lot of respect for the movie, for it took neither of the cliche archetypal trajectories. They also have a really funny conversation outside the door before they go in:”What if she’s giving him a hand job? What do you think?” “I think they’re adults, it’s highly unlikely she’s giving him a hand job.”
This hotel confrontation scene is actually beautifully handled and you really see how trapped his wife Liz (?) feels. Pat comes across as callous and selfish again, but even more so than in the graveyard fight with his brother because before he and his brother didn’t see eye to eye but they had different goals, whereas with his wife they don’t see eye to eye but they both only share one goal-trying to love each other and make their marriage work, which they can’t seem to do. It’s very tragic. She leaves the hotel room and vocally leaves their marriage as well. Gasp!
Back to Susan and her encoded love affair. She laughs it off to others but takes it seriously when she’s typing, like so many of us (okcupid amirite??????) As per arranged over the tortuously anonymous IM window, she goes to the water cooler and puts herself out there. When this guy walks up whom she assumes is her digital lover a funny exchange ensues:”I really do like flowers. Like metaphorically too. Symbolically.” But it’s actually not the balding older man by the water cooler sending her html love notes, it’s actually her friend! Who is a lesbian DUN DUN DUN!! Are they gonna make out!? Are they gonna elope!? But Susan Sarandon doesn’t see this as the exciting plot turn that we all do and goes into the bathroom to cry (good to know I won’t outgrow that. Thanks hormones). Her friend comes in to comfort her and they have this bathroom confession which goes really well. Lamenting about what your life is, the notion that death kills love, etc. Well, death and Disney movies. Susan says she’s always wanted to kiss someone under a waterfall, she mentions the Peace Corps, they’re really getting it all out.
Then in another coming together; Pat and Jeff also have a heart to heart of sorts where they share their envy of the others’ views:
“I wish I could see the world like you, you have this belief in this like cosmic order.”
“You don’t want to be like me, I am not happy. At all.”
This is the core exchange between the two of them.
Then there’s this conference call discussing love as not a gendered and binary thing but about finding a person who ‘gets’ you. Then it starts raining indoors-because Susan’s AIM crush/coworker pulls the fire alarm so they can kiss under a homemade waterfall. It’s not the peace corps but it’s the Staples version. Then they MAKE OUT OPEN MOUTH no they don’t but they KISS. Then they escape work and decide to high tail it to New Orleans. (Cause they’re in Baton Rouge remember?)
Cut to brotherly cab ride set to inspirational string music. But uh oh, traffic. Realities of the universe. “What is this?” “It looks like really bad traffic. ‘ Well in your- ” “oh you mean is it a sign? It could be, i think you gotta go with your gut.” So Pat continues on foot, trying to find his wife, running past his mother who is also stuck in this traffic on her way to her same sex romance-capade.
On Jeff’s now sans-Pat cab ride he brings up an amazing question- what if your destiny isn’t really that exciting? But right before you fully accept that -HE RUNS TO THE START OF THE TRAFFIC AND SEES IT’S AN ACCIDENT AND JUMPS IN THE WATER TO SAVE EVERYONE!!!!! BUT THEN HE’S DROWNING AND HIS BROTHER NEEDS TO JUMP IN TO SAVE HIM!! This is when I decided, this movie is really good.
Then it’s a music without words compilation of everyone wrapping everything up- then the dad’s name is Kevin! Like, we saw it coming but it was still good. Overall an interesting take away- that yes, there are signs and meaning BUT we just suck at interpreting them, so if you try you’re going to have as much difficulty as everyone else if not more so. But the one time you actually get it, it will be worth all the failures.