Although her exasperated mom to Jason Segel and Ed Helms "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" doesn't exactly mirror her situation in real life, Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon well knows, nonetheless that being a parent to two grown boys isn't easy.
Sarandon, who has two sons with her former partner Tim Robbins, told me in a recent interview that like Segal and Helms in the film, Jack, 22, and Miles, 20, don't always see eye-to-eye -- nor should they.
"I just had this conversation with my two boys -- who are very different but still love each other -- that their differences can be an asset," Sarandon said. "They don't have to agree on everything and the younger one doesn't have to take advice from the older one all the time, and if he doesn't it's not an insult."
What Sarandon said she really wants them to know is that through thick and thin, they're a family.
"They're the only ones that are really going to know and sympathize with my bad parenting," cracked Sarandon. "They have an experience as siblings that no one else can give them and they have to work to make sure that they have a good relationship. That relationship doesn't mean that they have to be same."
New on Blu-ray and DVD (Paramount Home Entertainment) Tuesday, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" stars Segel as the title character, an overgrown slacker who lives in the basement of his mom, Sharon's (Sarandon) house, mostly contemplating the connectivity of the universe around him. A fan of the movie "Signs," Jeff believes the signs he sees when tasked by Sharon to go to the store to buy wood glue to fix a shutter will guide him to a larger destiny.
On to the path of his adventures (and sometimes misadventures), Jeff runs into his older, estranged brother, Pat (Helms), who's too self-absorbed to see his marriage to Linda (Judy Greer) is falling apart. Co-written and co-directed by brother filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass, the offbeat comedy also stars Rae Dawn Chong as Sharon's empathetic co-worker, Carol.
Naturally, Segel and Helms have a brotherly fight in "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," although maybe not so convincingly to some in the physical sense.
"Jason and Ed thought that had fought so hard, and thought they were really, really seriously fighting. Then when they stopped, the whole crew burst out laughing and they were so insulted," Sarandon said with a laugh.
Sarandon believes the reason "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" resonated with viewers in theaters and is bound to do the same on home video is, no matter what walk of life you come from, if you're a parent, you will relate.
"The bottom line is, you still have to be involved and you have to worry about what's going on with your kids," said Sarandon, who also has a daughter, actress Eva Amurri Martino, from a previous relationship. "I think by the time a kid gets to be a teenager, you're at the mercy of their peers. You have to work really hard at the beginning to keep those channels open until they are older. You have to listen and try to re-know who they are once they start making decisions on their own."
"Parenting is the most difficult, and needs the most imagination and most stamina -- the most everything of any job you could possibly have," she added.
Then there's always the differing circumstances that each parent has that can potentially add to the degree of difficulty, Sarandon said.
"If you're a woman who works in the home and out of the home -- I think now that 50 percent of the households in the U.S. are headed by women -- if you're in that bind, then that's really hard," she said.
Addressing the larger question of "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" -- tackling the idea of seeing signs and acting on them to help shape one's own destiny -- Sarandon said it didn't take film to make her a believer.
"Everything that's ever happened to me in my life has happened unexpectedly. Everything has happened because of some kind of unforeseen connection, coincidence or serendipitous thing," Sarandon, 65, observed. "I think one of the strengths of my personality is that once I'm on a track and something crosses my path, I'm able to see it and make a decision whether or not to follow it."
And clearly, Sarandon's glad that the Duplass brothers crossed her path to remind her with this role how important the idea of realizing your destiny is.
"What happens in this movie is that everybody's life needs to be rebooted, and in this funny, cataclysmic day that they go through, those incidents, at least for a little while will get them to look at things differently," Sarandon said. "You just hope that it's for more than 15 minutes."