From a Bill Simmon's piece on Grantland:
Q: You referred to a mustache and goatee connecting as the "Circle beard" or the Cobain. Although it would be nice to honor Kurt in this way, back in the day, if any movie character or TV character had an evil twin or an evil alter ego of some kind, the evil one would just be the same guy but with the circle beard. Wouldn't it just be easier to call that facial hair look "the evil twin?"
— Ryan, Richmond, VA
SG: I worry about that working only because facial hair seems to change for different evil alter egos. For instance, Evil Spock (from Star Trek's iconic "Mirror Mirror" episode) had an old-school circle beard, whereas Garth Garthe Knight (from Knight Rider's not nearly as iconic two-parter in which Michael Knight's evil twin tried to bring him down4) had the Frank Zabka look going. Then again, when South Park did its evil-twin episode ("Spookyfish"), Evil Cartman had the full-fledged circle beard going. (Thinking.) (Still thinking.) You're right, "The Evil Twin" works better than "The Cobain." Even if I didn't know what it meant ahead of time, if somebody at work said to me, "Did you hear about Lane Brown? He grew evil-twin facial hair!" I'd understand the meaning.5 I think that works. Good job, Ryan from Richmond.
Director: Jay Duplass; Mark Duplass
Sloppy: Jason Segal
Circle-bearded asshole: Ed Helms
I want to see her in a movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson: Judy Greer
Bull Durham!: Susan Sarandon
Really fucking good at throwing a paper airplane: Rae Dawn Chong
Baller: Evan Ross
Look, if you want to come off as someone's evil brother, that's fine. I'm not telling you that you're an asshole for having this facial hair. Or that only assholes have this facial hair. I'm pretty sure Johnny Depp is awesome, and he rocks a minimalist circle beard.
But, look at the pictures above.
Kanye, perceived as a gigantic asshole: circle beard.
John Travolta in From Paris with Love: asshole (but nice).
Johnny Drama: lovable, but a total and absolute asshole
Denzel in Training Day: one of the biggest assholes ever to grace a movie screen.
Nicolas Cage: may be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "asshole".
And, in Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Pat (Helms) is an asshole. Not only an asshole, insecure. He buys a porsche, he chases his wife around instead of talking to her. He mocks everyone and makes them feel stupid: a standard coping mechanism for those who are insecure about their own intelligence and personality--make others feel how you feel, so you don't feel so bad about yourself.
OH RON ARTEST HAS A CIRCLE BEARD. And Andrew Bynum. Both have been described as having...character issues.
Johnny Drama is insecure. Who knows what Nicolas Cage is. And we could argue that Kanye's humongous ego is an equal-and-opposite reaction to insecurities.
And look, I've said it before, and I'll say it right now: movies, like all art, are reflective of the society that produces them. Music captures the tone and concerns of a society. Paintings and Fashion reflect the style and mindset. Literature captures the situations, attitude, and reactions of a society. Film and Television do all of this.
The plot of Jeff, Who Lives at Home is representative of the trend for a lot of adults to, well, live at home. A byproduct of the downturn of the American economy over the last half-decade, and of the lengthening of the adulthood process (like the average age of people getting married is increasing, as is the average age of people having kids).
Jeff (Segal) looks like a fucking slob. Why? Because whoever's in charge of this stuff (director? writers? costume designers?) probably did some research on the attire of: 30-year-olds who live at home and don't have jobs and are mildly depressed.
Sharon (Sarandon) and Carol (Chong) look like women who work in an office. Why? Because whoever's in charge of this stuff probably did some research on the attire of: middle-aged women, of a certain income level, who work in a professional setting.
For Pat, whoever is in charge of this stuff did some research on the attire of: adult males who are condescending assholes because they're insecure about who they are and how they appear to other people so are totally self-obsessed at the expense of those they proclaim to love but don't really show love, only frustration. And what did they come up with? A FUCKING CIRCLE BEARD.
"Jeff and Pat are also brothers. And Pat is the 'evil' one of the two. So, maybe this is the simple reason they gave him a circle beard, MR. SMARTY PANTS! Whoever is in charge of this stuff was being tongue-in-cheek."
To that, I'll argue: the circle beard is still associated with being evil. So...uh...that's still not good.
Look. I know people who have circle beards who are very nice. I know people who know people who have circle beards and are, by all accounts, very nice. But I also know way too many people who have circle beards that are...well...insecure and oftentimes assholes. I know, I know, before you say "Assholes are assholes, it doesn't matter what facial hair they have." I'm just saying...ENOUGH insecure assholes are wearing circle beards that it's become a way to physically define a movie or television character that is insecure and an asshole.
Which means you can be the greatest guy in the world, but if you're wearing a circle beard, the first impression you're giving off is, due to the representation of the circle beard in film and television: "I'm an insecure asshole."
Which is why I'm recommending not having a circle beard.
Did I Like It:
Yeah. But I don't know who I'd recommend it to? I don't think it's that funny. I also don't think it's that...dramatic? It's a weird movie. It's like...Magnolia for Dummies. If Magnolia didn't exist, I'd think this movie was pretty inventive and cool. But Magnolia exists and all this did was make me want to watch Magnolia.
I like that all the people are suffering from missing pieces (like Magnolia...). The final scene is cheesy, but it's fitting.
The one scene really makes it seem like Jason Segal can run as fast as a Gallimimus.
Ebert said this perfectly:
One stylistic note: In nearly every scene, the Duplass brothers use quick little zooms in and out. Given the usual meaning of a sudden zoom in the grammar of the cinema (they translate as whoa!), these have no meaning at all.
I don't think it needs explained, but...what happened that Jeff started to drown and the dad didn't try to save him? Did Jeff get hit in the head? Did he just pass because he ran out of air? Did he even save the dad? I have no idea.
Not sure I really buy Pat suddenly becoming a "good guy". If he had shaved...I would totally buy it.
But, seriously, I can't believe how accurate the paper airplane toss was? Like...I'm really not sure I believe it. I may be projecting because I suck at making/flying paper airplanes, which always bothers me, since I was a pitcher and am obsessed with being able to hit my target. Maybe I'm just jealous?
What It's Good For:
-hating Ed helms
-watching horrible things happen to a Porsche
-making verite seem even more annoying
-making Kevins feel special
-cheesy yet poignant final moment
-not really exciting
-I don't think it's that funny
-Segal is kind of at his ugliest looking
-a Porsche is destroyed
-Pat is constantly a giant assholes
-why did Jeff almost drown?
-if you've seen and enjoyed Magnolia you may look down your nose at this
% Character / % Actor's personality
-Magnolia: Paul Thomas Anderson
-Paul Thomas Anderson: Boogie Nights; Punch-Drunk Love; THERE WILL BE BLOOD
-for some reason it reminded me of: Donnie Darko
-movies involving a car crashing into water: I, Robot; The Crow; Chronicle; Inception
-Segal being mopey: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
-Helms playing sort of a dick: The Hangover; The Hangover: Part II; The Goods, Live Free, Sell Hard
-Sarandon not having enough sex in her life: Bull Durham; Thelma & Louise; Rugrats in Paris: The Movie
-Chong: Cyrus; The Color Purple