Fam­ily jew­els

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS LIFE - RAN­DALL KING

TORONTO — Play­ing sib­lings in one big un­happy brood, Tina Fey and Ja­son Bate­man mix up laugh­ter, tears and, in Fey’s case, a mean left hook in Shawn Levy’s com­e­dy­drama This Is Where I Leave You. In the film, based on the novel by Jonathan Trop­per, Bate­man plays Judd Alt­man, a ra­dio pro­ducer given a one-two punch from life, first when he dis­cov­ers his wife has been cheat­ing on him with his boss, and then again when his fa­ther dies. Judd re­turns to the fam­ily home to hon­our dad’s dy­ing wish to sit shiva with his fam­ily for a week, an ad­ven­ture that puts him back in close con­tact with his newly wid­owed, sur­gi­cally en­hanced mother Hil­lary (Jane Fonda) and his sis­ter Wendy (Tina Fey), an el­e­gantly fraz­zled mom un­der­go­ing some mar­i­tal strife of her own. Dur­ing the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where the movie held its world première, Bate­man and Fey weighed in on play­ing frac­tious fa­mil­ial fools. They started things off with not un­ex­pected sar­donic hu­mour when Bate­man was asked about the ap­peal of play­ing the still cen­tre of a crazy fam­ily, à la Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment. “Well, em­ploy­ment re­ally,” he says. “You kind of take what you get in this business, un­less you’re two or three ac­tors that we all know. And if the part is some­thing you can tackle and there’s a lot of great peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with it, it’s a pretty easy ‘yes.’ I get ap­proached to do this type of character of­ten be­cause that’s what peo­ple see me do. It’s no sur­prise to me.” Fey in­ter­jects: “When you need some­one to be the emo­tional cen­tre of some­thing, there’s an in­tel­li­gence they have to project, a warmth and a lik­a­bil­ity for the au­di­ence to iden­tify with them...” “Those guys were not avail­able,” Bate­man says. Fey on Jane Fonda: “Once, we had a re­hearsal in a down­town stu­dio where, in the other rooms, peo­ple were tak­ing a class,” Fey re­calls. “And when we were done, Jane saw some stu­dents get­ting ready… and their minds were blown that Jane Fonda just came out of this room and she just said: ‘Can I au­dit your class? “And she just went in and took the class. And we all went home be­cause we’re lazy.” Bate­man on Jane Fonda: “She’s so down-to-earth. She’s got a great spirit and no real van­ity... a real part of the work­ing crew. That’s the sense you get from her, that she’s part of the crew. There’s no cast and no crew, ev­ery­one’s just work­ing to­gether to make this thing. Her job just hap­pens to be speak­ing. “When you see some­one with her ex­pe­ri­ence and pedi­gree act­ing that way, and sup­port­ing that, it’s a great com­bi­na­tion.” Bate­man on es­tab­lish­ing a rap­port with Fey: “(It hap­pened) pretty fast. You can get along with her pretty eas­ily. It takes three or four weeks, but luck­ily, the shoot was six.” Fey on shoot­ing the movie in a real house, as op­posed to a set: “There was an up­stairs bed­room where all the ‘chil­dren’ hung out in and Jane had a lit­tle mom’s room over the garage. We just sat around play­ing Words With Friends and jok­ing around. By the end of the shoot, Kathryn Hahn and Con­nie Brit­ton and Corey (Stoll) would all be asleep on the bed at the same time. There were no for­mal bound­aries after a while.” Fey on play­ing a role that’s a ma­jor de­par­ture from the neu­rotic Liz Le­mon in 30 Rock: “There’s a lot that ap­pealed about it. She’s a woman that doesn’t work, which I find fas­ci­nat­ing. She’s a woman who’s con­fi­dent in her ap­pear­ance and her sex­u­al­ity, which is a de­par­ture from the TV show. “Susan Lyle, the cos­tume de­signer, is re­ally great and she did this great job of ba­si­cally try­ing to make me look like Shawn Levy’s wife, which was the visual in­spi­ra­tion for the character from him. He wanted me to look like her. “I would put on jew­elry — what a woman wears — and at the end of the day I would be like, ‘That’s so much jew­elry. There’s so much. There’s, like, two ear­rings.’ So it felt like a real stretch for me.” This Is Where I Leave You opens in

the­atres Fri­day.

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