Away We Go
Released December 10
Director Sam Mendes takes a break from his harder, more biting previous work (Revolutionary Road, American Beauty) in this immensely enjoyable dramedy about a couple looking to find a place to call home.
John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) play Burt and Verona respectively. Burt is bearded, bespectacled, clumsy and spontaneous, but an all around nice guy who loves his girlfriend dearly. She, Verona, is six months pregnant. They live in Colorado near Burt’s parents (an hilarious Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara), who seem more interested in moving to Belgium than their impending granddaughter. Now with little reason to stay, Burt and Verona uproot and flutter between Arizona, Wisconsin and Montreal surveying different lifestyles and possibilities.
The episodes that follow are funny and laced with a wealth of acting talent in small roles. Stand outs are Allison Janney as a loud, obnoxious mother, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as an uptight new ager with an aversion to strollers. While these characters are overblown and the gags sometimes stray into banalities that could form the crux of a lesser film, the central couple are sensible, intelligent and likable people who keep it emotionally grounded.
This whimsy, complete with requisite indie songs that could have been plucked from Juno, charms; but sentimentality takes over as the leads close in on their search for home. However subtle the acting and direction in these scenes – and they are affecting – the closure they offer is unnecessary.
Critical reaction to Away We Go has been mixed, with some claiming the ideal of Burt and Verona makes them smug and condescending, while A.O. Scott describes their quest as a “flight from adulthood, from engagement, from responsibility”. Both, perhaps, are true. If so, I’m happy to indulge Sam Mendes’ fantasy.