- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Focus Features
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fter depressing just about every middle-aged couple in the country with last year’s “Revolutionary Road,” it’s nice to see Sam Mendes bounce back with a film that’s the complete opposite – an optimistic romantic comedy about a young couple searching for the secret to happiness. While their journey consists almost entirely of spending time with people you wouldn’t want to mirror a relationship after, the point of the film is less about who they meet and more about why they'll succeed where everyone else has failed. It’s the kind of low-key, hipster indie film that you’d never expect a guy like Mendes to make, but thanks to a strong and funny script made even better by its talented cast, “Away We Go” will likely go down as one of the year's best.
The film stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as Burt and Verona, an unmarried thirtysomething couple whose world has just been turned upside down by an unplanned pregnancy – a discovery that takes place in a particularly funny opening sequence involving the kind of oral sex gag you'd normally see in a Judd Apatow movie. When Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels) announce that they’re pursuing a lifelong dream to move to Belgium mere months before the baby is born (an announcement that maddens Burt after relocating to his hometown for the sole purpose of keeping the baby close to family), Burt and Verona set off on a cross-country road trip in search of the perfect city to start their new life.
Each stop along the way presents the opportunity for the couple to spend time with friends and family, and the supporting cast runs away with the movie as a result. Allison Janney scores big laughs as Verona’s obnoxiously candid former boss (and current frontrunner for the title of World’s Worst Mother); Maggie Gyllenhaal is annoying but funny as Burt’s overly pretentious New Age sister; and the aforementioned O’Hara and Daniels appear in a brief scene where they giggle and whisper to one another like a couple of excited teenagers. In fact, all of the supporting performances are more like extended cameos, but they’re just long enough that they don't wear out their welcome, and just short enough that you wouldn't mind if each one lingered on for a little longer.
Not every vignette features such extreme or negative characters. Carmen Ejogo injects some soul into the story as Verona’s hopelessly romantic sister; Paul Schneider brings heart as Burt’s recently separated brother; and Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey spread the message of love as old college friends who, despite creating a Von Trapp-sized family of adopted children, have faced medical complications in having their own. Still, even with so many great actors trying to make the most of their limited screen time, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph don’t disappoint in the lead roles. Krasinski plays the same witty, nice guy-type that we've all come to know and love on “The Office,” while “SNL” vet Rudolph surprises in the first dramatic role of her career.
Though the script, written by real-life couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, provides the blueprint for the couple’s rock-solid relationship, it’s the way in which Krasinski and Rudolph inhabit the roles that makes their pairing so believable. These two really do love one another, and though they have their disagreements about certain subjects (Burt wants to get married, but Verona can't bear the thought of doing so without her parents around to witness it), they don't let it effect them in the way that most couples would. The characters from "Revolutionary Road" could only dream about a relationship as easy as this, and at the end of the day, I'd much rather laugh at Krasinski and Rudolph pretending to fight than watch Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet actually doing it. It's simply more entertaining, especially with a cast as incredibly funny as this.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The single-disc release of “Away We Go” features a humble but solid collection of bonus material highlighted by an audio commentary with director Sam Mendes and writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. The commentary offers a nice dissection of what each party brought to the film, while the more generic making-of featurette focuses almost exclusively on its amazing cast. Rounding out the set is a short look at the way the production team promoted environmental awareness by offering green alternatives.