“This is Where I Leave You” has a surprise lesbian storyline


*Caution: Mild Spoilers Ahead.*

Jonathan Tropper‘s 2009 novel This is Where I Leave You was such a success, the author turned the story into a screenplay and the film adaptation by the same name opened in theaters this weekend. With an all-star cast (Jane Fonda, Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, among others) and a hilarious premise (the family patriarch dies and the adult kids are forced to sit shiva for seven days), the movie is set up for success. Thankfully, it delivers and includes a surprise lesbian relationship toward the end.


Jane Fonda is Hillary Altman, a celebrity psychologist who has embarrassed her children with her famous book, Cradle and All, detailing their sexual discoveries from a young age. Her husband has passed away after being sick for several years, and the funeral brings her daughter, Wendy, (Tina Fey) and sons Paul (Corey Stall), Judd (Jason Bateman) and Phillip (Adam Driver) back together for the first time in years. Wendy comes with her preoccupied husband and two young children, Paul brings his desperate-to-get-knocked-up wife (Kathryn Hahn) and Phillip introduces his much older girlfriend (Connie Britton). Judd tries to hide the fact his wife, Quinn, has cheated on him with his boss and so he’s left her, but that secret and more eventually come out as the family are unable to escape one another upon the final wish of their father.


Everyone seems to be dealing with the passing alright. Perhaps it’s because they each have other things going on in their current lives that seem to be less finalized. Hillary, though, is the most well-adjusted, sharing TMI with visitors and telling Judd, at one point, she’s been “popping Xanax” like crazy. But Hillary also has the help of a close family friend and across-the-street neighbor, Linda (Debra Monk). Linda lost her husband a few years back, and when Judd asks why she “never found anyone else,” she smirks kindly and says, “It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the total sum of what you see.”

It isn’t until close to the end of the film that Hillary and Linda get into a huge argument that leads to Linda slamming the front door on her way out and Hillary heading upstairs. But Wendy stops to ask her mom if she’s OK and wants to talk about it. (She doesn’t.) A few days later, when her sons are in a fist fight on the front lawn in front of neighbors and visitors on the last day of Shiva, Linda comes out of her house to see what is going on and Hillary walks straight over to her at the edge of the lawn and begins kissing her. It’s enough to make everyone stop whatever they are doing to widen their eyes, drop their jaws and stare in disbelief. Yes, Hillary and Linda are in love.


Inside, Hillary explains to her children that the friends fell for one another while helping care for each other’s husbands. Their father paid off Linda’s mortgage when she was unable to make ends meet and he was also completely supportive of their romantic relationship. Hillary says he was an “enlightened” man and was happy to know she’d be taken care of after he inevitably passed on. No one takes issue with the relationship, although viewers might find it surprising after Hillary speaks very openly about missing her husband’s penis earlier in the film. Hillary is clearly progressive herself, and bisexual.


For the rest of the film, Hillary and Linda are shown as very affectionate with one another. Their relationship is very clearly loving and supportive, as Linda allowed Hillary to share the news with her children after they were able to mourn their father “without distractions.” The novel version goes more in depth with how the romance began (Linda had had several female lovers before and the attraction between them was emotional first, and then physical). Linda’s involvement with the Altmans is also set up much earlier in the book, when Judd notes she had helped diaper him and take care of him “almost as much as his own mother.” It’s done in a very tasteful manner, and it’s refreshing that no one in their lives rejects their happiness, even in a highly emotional situation.

Those who were hoping Tina Fey or Connie Britton might take part in the This is Where I Leave You Sapphic storyline, they do have a fun exchange about a young, blonde woman Connie’s boyfriend is seen flirting with. Connie’s character says, “Even I’d sleep with her!” while Tina’s responds, “Yeah. I wouldn’t say that in front of my brother if I were you.”


Despite a few cheesy and somewhat predictable moments, This is Where I Leave You is superbly acted and has imperfect characters that you find yourself wanting to befriend. Like a Jewish, non-holiday version of The Family Stone, This is Where I Leave You is a film about a big, lovable family that includes an LGBT couple without judgment. Instead, they are probably the least screwed up people in the entire crew.

This Is Where I Leave You is in theaters now.

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