A Movie about the Difference Between Correlation and Causation: A Consultant’s and Life Coach Tutorial
Lewis Harrison helps people to create better lives through a Life Coaching approach that increases efficiency, effectiveness, precision, self-awareness, Eastern Wisdom and game-based strategies
Q. I have always had an interest between coincidence (correlation) and cause and effect. Are there any movies that explore this distinction concerning why and how things happen?
A. Yes. One of my favorites is Jeff, Who Lives at Home. This 2011American comedy-drama, directed by Jay Duplass, and Mark Duplass is a joyride concerning these distinctions, which are actually important for any skilled life and success coach.
Here are the details:
The trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kctOpTQtyUg
Plot: Jeff is a 30-year-old unemployed stoner living in his mother Sharon’s (Sarandon) basement in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He looks for his destiny in seemingly random occurrences. He finds inspiration in the feature film Signs, which reinforces his belief in this outlook. One day, he answers the telephone; it’s a wrong number, from somebody asking for “Kevin,” and Jeff contemplates the meaning of this, deciding it’s a sign.
Receiving a call from his irritated mother asking him to buy wood glue to fix a door shutter or find a new place to live, Jeff boards a bus, where he sees a kid wearing a sports jersey bearing the name Kevin. He follows Kevin (Ross) to a basketball court, where he joins a pick-up game and the two bond. Jeff agrees to smoke weed with Kevin, but discovers he has been tricked when he is beaten and mugged.
He happens upon a Hooters restaurant where he crosses paths with his older brother Pat (Helms), a successful yuppie struggling with a failing marriage. Pat’s wife Linda (Greer) is spotted at a gas station across the street with another man. Jeff and Pat spend several hours following them, first to a restaurant and later to a hotel, with Pat’s new Porsche being ticketed, crashed and eventually towed away at various points in the journey. The brothers also visit their father’s gravesite and fight over their conflicting life philosophies.
Jeff sees a truck reading “Kevin Kandy” and runs off to hitch a ride, only to end up at the same hotel where Pat has found Linda in a room with another man. Jeff offers to break down the door. The man is a co-worker of hers named Steve (Zissis). Linda quickly ushers Steve out and then confronts Pat about his role in their problems. Frustrated, she leaves, saying she will move in with her mother. Jeff and Pat reconcile. Jeff explains how he is struggling to find his destiny in life, while Pat admits he wants to fall in love with Linda again and for her to do the same with him. Jeff encourages his brother to tell her that, and they hail a taxi to pursue her.
Interspersed within the main story is the story of Sharon, who is at work, frustrated with her unfulfilled life and dissatisfaction with her sons. The doldrum is interrupted when a paper airplane with a beautiful drawing of a flower lands in her cubicle, followed by an anonymous co-worker claiming in an instant message to be a secret admirer. Sharon spends the day trying to deduce the identity of her admirer. She confides her frustrations to colleague and friend Carol, revealing that she has not dated since her husband’s death. Carol encourages her to warm up to the attention she is receiving. Sharon is surprised and confused when the admirer turns out to be Carol herself, and though neither believe themselves to be attracted to their own gender, Carol appeals to Sharon’s desire to become close with someone who truly understands her. At that moment, a fire alarm goes off and ceiling sprinklers activate; this is an enlightening moment for Sharon who sets off with Carol on a spur of the moment trip to New Orleans.
Jeff, Pat, Linda, Sharon, and Carol all converge on a bridge, where they are stuck in standstill traffic. Pat exits the taxi and runs through the traffic to tell Linda how he feels, passing Carol’s car; Sharon sees her son and runs after him, followed by Carol. As Jeff muses to the cab driver about seeking out his destiny only to find it isn’t very exciting, he observes a helicopter flying overhead, jumps out of the taxi and also runs through the traffic, passing Pat, who was sharing his feelings with Linda when they were interrupted by the arrival of Sharon and Carol. Jeff continues onward to discover that the cause of the traffic is an accident in which one car plummeted over the side of the bridge. He dives into the water and rescues two children and their father; when Jeff then fails to resurface Pat dives in and rescues him. The group reconciles after the ordeal, and the audience sees Sharon celebrating her birthday and Pat and Linda apparently faring better in their marriage. Jeff sees a news report about his heroics and learns that the father of the kids he rescued was also named Kevin; now with a sense of purpose, he grabs some wood glue and fixes the door shutter.
Running time: 83 minutes
Comments: This is a feel good movie but it seems more of a neurotic movie for neurotics until the last twenty minutes. The film is important to me because it covers an issue seldom addressed in film – causation versus correlation. If you enjoyed this movie you may also enjoy:
Harold and Maude
Things Behind the Sun
The King of California
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Lewis Harrison is a practical philosopher, mentor, and peak performance success and life coach. In the 1990s he was a member of the National Board of Review for Motion Pictures
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