Synopsis: John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) star in the heartfelt film that explores the comedic twists and turns in one couple’s journey across contemporary America. Anticipating the birth of their first child, longtime couple Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) embark on an ambitious itinerary to visit friends and family in order to find their perfect home. Featuring a remarkable soundtrack and an incredible ensemble cast – including Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O’Hara and Jim Gaffigan. It’s the hilarious, witty film that critics are hailing as “absolutely extraordinary!” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
Away We Go 8.25
Everything about ‘Away We Go’ lulls me into forgetting it. Isn’t that weird?
The title, which I find banal, the poster/DVD cover, which is bland enough that I’ve avoided it for years, the lead actors are unknown to me, so there was no draw, I’ve heard nothing about it from anyone, so there was no positive word-of-mouth, …etc. It all left disinterested.
It simply doesn’t make any sense, because Sam Mendes’ comedy has become one of my favourite films of the year. In fact, I was so pleased with it that I knew right away that this would be a film I’d like to revisit repeatedly, that I would no doubt become fonder of it over time and that it had the potential of becoming an all-time favourite.
The opening shot set the tone. Not only is it rare to see a man going down on a woman in Hollywood cinema but, in showing this scene, they managed to establish the couple’s dynamic. In so doing, they also hinted at how long they’d been together, and provided a frank account of the not uncommon tedium and awkwardness of sex in long-term relationships, long after the early days’ magic has waned.
‘Away We Go’ felt extremely “true” to me. The way each character inhabited their world seemed reasonable by their set standards, their interactions were in line with their approach to life, and the plot developments were completely logical by my book. And I really enjoyed that it was all done in small vignettes, as the couple wandered about America, visiting friends and family.
I was also thoroughly interested by each couple/family that they visited. They all had their own vibe, quirks, ups and downs, and it was all rather appealing to watch. Of course, having said that, I am especially fascinated with human behaviour – so my reaction may have something to do with that and likely does not reflect the average viewer’s response.
From the start, when we met Burt’s self-absorbed parents (played with verve by Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara), we got the sense that this would be an unusual journey. This was proven true after visiting Verona’s old boss, who is initially portrayed as an achiever, but who has a terribly dysfunctional family.
By the time we get through the man-eating sister, new-agey childhood friend (in a truly memorable turn by Maggie Gyllenhaal ), and the seemingly perfect college friends in Montreal, we’re given the impression that not everything is as it initially seems and everyone has his/her foibles.
Only Burt’s brother seems relatively normal – although we first meet him upon the discovery that his wife had left him. It’s an unfortunate turn of events for this character, obviously, but it’s nothing especially out of the ordinary in this day and age.
Thankfully, this sequence was also the home of one of my favourite moments, when Burt and Verona make promises to each other, lying on an outdoor trampoline in his brother’s backyard. It was clearly scripted (i.e. no one talks this way ), but I loved the sentiment, and some of their promises were at once humourous, lovely and affecting.
Mendes was spot on during most of the film, cueing every bit just right. There was only this one moment outside the Montreal home when the editing was off, strangely enough, but everything else was perfectly put together. I was even impressed with the way that he cued his tunes to match the action on screen. Well done.
While ‘Away We Go’ lacked that silver screen “magic” that would have come with having stars in the lead (case-in-point: see what happens when O’Hara and Gyllenhaal are on!), it offered a couple that was more relatable. And, although that’s a double-edged sword, I believe that it was an excellent decision on Mendes’ part.
‘Away We Go’ is a genuinely funny, touching, and moving motion picture. It may seem like nothing much at first glance, but it’s vibrant and full of life’s subtle complexities. For me, there is no doubt that it will be a grower, so to speak, and that I will watch it again. And again.