Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Away We Go

I'm starting to tire of these quirky independent comedies. The eccentricity of many of the characters in these types of films just feels all too typical after the success of quirky films like Little Miss Sunshine or Juno. Away We Go, another post-modern equivalent of the screwball comedy, is the fifth film from Sam Mendes (director of American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Jarhead, and Revolutionary Road) and the first script from Dave Eggers (Salon.com writer who is also penning the upcoming Where the Wild Things are with Spike Jonze). I expected them to be able to anchor the quirkiness and the eccentricities of these characters but they practically amplify it because the two main characters, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), are flawed to such an extent that I found myself (and I think others will too) looking at ways that I would be able to succeed over them. Not that Burt and Verona are pathetic excuses for human beings, but they just frankly haven't got their shit together at such a late age and as Verona puts it, they are "fuck-ups." 

The premise of Away We Go is that Burt and the pregnant Verona take some time away from their professional lives to go and travel the country to find the perfect place to raise a family. Along the way they meet up with friends and family with the film consisting of a talented but unorthodox ensemble cast. Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara play Burt's parents, Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan play colleagues of Verona, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is just as annoying as she was in The Dark Knight but instead of crying for Harvey Dent she just spouts new age academic beliefs to the always entertaining Paul Schneider. Away We Go is a film that it is easy to watch from beginning to end but because all of the quirkiness and eccentricity that I keep mentioning being misplaced for such sad characters, the film needs an emotional anchor. 

The anchor ends up being Verona who grows into her role as a mother and Burt is only really there to help anchor her. This makes Rudolph's character the easiest to connect to but I almost feel like I have to have shared an experience with her, and I don't think most men have been pregnant while traveling across the country. Like Jarhead or Revolutionary Road, Mendes's film would work better if you had a deeper understanding of the characters and their jobs in life yet if you like how the characters of those films (and especially the families of American Beauty) are total misfits, and that is what you can relate to, then there is some enjoyment to be found on the Away We Go road trip.

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