Sam Mendes Gets Sentimental With “Away We Go”
At this point in Sam Mendes’ career, he doesn’t have much to prove. Each and every movie he has ever directed has been critically acclaimed and he already has a Best Director Oscar on his mantle. However, all of his movies have one thing in common: Depressing characters engulfed in depressing situations. While his latest effort, “Away We Go”, isn’t some “Forrest Gump”-ish fairy tale, it is definitely much more uplifting than say, “American Beauty” or “Revolutionary Road”.
“Away We Go” is about an unmarried couple, Burt and Verona, who find themselves accidentally pregnant. They live in a tiny, beat up house in the middle of the woods, where Burt works as an insurance securities salesman and Verona paints what could only be the human organ system for textbooks. They decide to move when the couple learns that Burt’s parents (played with beautiful ignorance by Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara) unexpectedly decide to move to Belgium.
Since Burt and Verona can do their jobs from anywhere, they decide to research different areas of the country by visiting friends and family. This begins a whirlwind tour of North America as the couple travels from Tucson to Montreal.
Along the way, the couple learns about many different family dynamics. This allows the clever script written by real life married couple Dave Eggers and Vendola Vida to feature plenty of quirkiness as we meet various people in Burt and Verona’s lives. The two comedic highlights are Allison Janney’s hilariously obnoxious mother of two and Maggie Gyllenhaal as LN (former name of Ellen), the hippie mother who refuses to use strollers because “she loves her children…why would I want to push them away?”. Burt and Verona’s journey is mostly a lesson on the dos and don’ts of parenting.
While the supporting cast is quite impressive, not a scene goes by that doesn’t feature Burt and Verona. I can assure you that it should only take you about five minutes before you completely fall in love with John Kraskinski and Maya Rudolph in these roles. Rudolph, known for being on “Saturday Night Live”, really holds most of the emotional weight of “Away We Go” on her pregnant shoulders. Her performance here is truly surprising and should springboard her into some meatier roles. The same goes for Krasinski, who sheds his Jim from “The Office” image pretty impressively. He is so convincing as the blindly optimistic Burt that, much like his TV role, you could believe it if someone told you that he and Rudolph were a real couple.
Good romantic comedies are few and far between, but “Away We Go” is a very good one. It should really hit home for those of us in our late 20s or early 30s that can hear real life knocking on the door and you aren’t quite sure how to answer it, or if you even want to. Mendes won’t be showered with awards for this film, but it is a welcome addition to an impressive career. Since this is a road movie, there are plenty of opportunities to see North America and the movie looks fantastic, which adds to what a pleasure it is to sit through.
Unfortunately, this movie is opening up against “The Hangover” and “Land of the Lost” this weekend so I’m sure it will be completely swept away by the general public. That’s a real shame because it’s rare to find a romantic comedy that is this funny and honest. It’s a very accurate look at, what Mrs. Cinematically Correct called, “life”.