Jonathan Tropper was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel five years ago, looking down at the red carpet outside of the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. “I just remember vividly looking out there and wondering what it takes to get from here to there,” he said.
It takes Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda signing on to do your movie and a major studio promoting it. Earlier this week,”This is Where I leave You,” the film based on his bestselling book had its premiere at the TLC Chinese Theatre.
I read the book and saw the movie and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed both. A group of us saw the film and got to sit down with Tropper and talk about his writing career, what it was like to make the movie, and the coincidence with Jane Fonda.
The book and movie are about Judd, played by Bateman, who finds his wife in bed with his boss and then has to go home to his father’s funeral. His father’s dying wish was for his family to sit shiva – where you sit in mourning for 7 days – after the funeral. Judd is joined by his sister, Wendy (Tina Fey), who longs for her old love, but is married to a self-involved workaholic. Paul (Corey Stall) is their angry older brother who is desperately trying to have a baby with his wife. And Phillip (Adam Driver) is their irresponsible younger brother who brings home a much older woman who also happens to be his psychiatrist (played by the gorgeous Connie Britton). Heading this family of depressed misfits is Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda), also a psychiatrist with secrets to hide.
Of course not everything is the same in the movie as it was in the book, including the ending, but there are a lot of same lines. Actually there are a lot of the same lines made funnier or changed altogether by the incredible cast that include some great improvisers. Tropper said he wasn’t offended that they took liberties with his words.
“In this case, I was way more open to it because when you have a comedy writer like Tina Fey on set, you’d be an idiot to get in her way,” he said. “I attribute some of the big laughs in the movie from her is stuff that she improvised on the spot that we kept. This was a great combination. Her and Jason Bateman, Ben Schwartz, and Dax Shepard are all really fantastically fast improvisers.”
I am a big fan of Jason Bateman and when I first read the book years ago, he was who I pictured as Judd. It was the same with Tropper. He did not imagine Jane Fonda in the role of the matriarch, which is funny because he mentions her briefly in the book.
“I didn’t even remember till we were into shooting, and then somebody mentioned it to me,” he said. “And I went over to her on set. And I said, ‘You know, Jane, this is kind of weird. But I actually mentioned you in the book.’ And she’s like, ‘I know.’ I mean there’s Jane Fonda the icon and Jane Fonda the actress. I was mentioning her as a piece of pop culture in the book.”
Because I read the book, I know she was mentioned. I also know the backstories on all of the characters, which made for a more enjoyable movie experience. One of the funniest scenes in the book was cut out. It’s when Judd catches his wife in bed with his boss. He’s holding a birthday cake with lit candles and when he throws it at his boss there’s a fire and flaming genitals.
“I imply it in kind of a jokey way. And then I talk about the aftermath. But you know the thought of having to actually shoot that in a room with an actor and do that and knowing that in the first three minutes of the movie that’s what you were going to see was going to set a tone for the movie that I think was totally wrong.”
The movie is a little quieter than the book and the first scene sets that up. “One of my favorite moments is the moment where he blows out the candles and we go to black. And you see This is Where I Leave You. And it’s very quiet. And I think that’s sort of setting the tone for the story that follows.”
It is a quiet movie, but one with really good actors and some funny scenes. It was nice to see a grown up movie with no superheroes and good dialogue. The move opens today. Check out the trailer below.