Thursday, July 9, 2009

Love: Away We Go

In most cinematic love stories, there exists an established sort of dichotomy.  On the one hand, there are the seemingly factory produced rom-coms that begin with tepid conflict, banter (good or bad), and end with sugary sweet bliss.  On the other, there are the dramas, indies, and melodramas; the films in which people in love are pitted against tremendous obstacles.  If the characters in these films are foolish enough to think, for an instant, that they can be happy together, they will almost inevitably find themselves mistaken.  That’s Hollywood for you.  You’re either pursuing love, falling into it, or falling out of it. You’re either a happy couple at the conclusion, or a happy couple at the outset waiting to be miserable.  It's a rare day when there’s space for a script about people who love each other without complication, and that space is usually reserved for Hallmark channel dreck and family oriented fare.  Until now.
   Away We Go is a nice movie about nice folks spawned from a surprising collaboration. Director Sam Mendes, famous for providing viewers with bleak portraits of familial suburbia in films such as American Beauty and last year’s Revolutionary Road, eschews his typical subject matter to tell a tale penned by the unbearably hipsterific husband and wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.  Eggers is, of course, most noteworthy as the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and as a founder of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern,  and if you’re unfamiliar with the two of them you'll most certainly want to Google that.  If nothing else, know that the San Francisco chronicle referred to Eggers & Vida as the “literary equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie”.  When teamed with Mendes, they form a powerful menage a trois of talent that is something of a wet dream to your average dorm dwelling liberal arts student (or wait, is that Eggers + Jonze, or Fincher? Or Anderson (Wes or P.T.)?).  If I've made Away We Go seem like the property of the urban elitist, staring down from behind non-perscription plastic frames to tell you "this was all better before it got big", have no fear.  Average citizens, believe me when I tell you: this movie is actually not that pretentious.


No, no, Away We Go  is a down-to-earth human interest type of affair. Honestly! Believe me! And really, it feels pretty good.  The film is the charmingly-woven tale of ­­­­Verona (SNL alum Maya Rudolph) and Burt (The Office’s John Krasinski), two long-term love birds happily on the verge of starting a family. Verona’s knocked up and Burt just can’t wait.  Realizing their ramshackle starter home is falling apart and their link to family has long been disintegrating, they find themselves on a cross country quest for connection and a place of their own.  Along the way, they check in with others: siblings, college friends, old colleagues, faux-cousins, people who are unhappy, people who live with strange convictions and neurosis, the usual suspects we all have somewhere in our origin story.  The supporting cast (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, among others) shine in their individual roles, but their power is limited by the gravitational pull of Krasinski and Rudolph's central pairing. Burt and Verona are a couple believably in love.  As such, their characters construct the lens through which we perceive their relations.  What we find are people who would tear down a more susceptable couple.  Cynics, unlucky stiffs, fanatics.  Yet (and this is not a spoiler) Burt and Verona's bonds grow stronger as they encounteri all the examples of the people they don't want to become.
If it sounds sickeningly sweet, it's only in the retelling. The film is beautifully and carefully paced; dosed with a serious amount of straightforward humor and honesty.  When it springs to life it grabs you in the moment of its urgency, and when its contemplative it lets the viewer take in the simplicity of its world.  It would be easy to call the story cute or idealistic at the end of the day, but those aren't necessarily the words that spring to mind as you're watching the story unfold.  Away We Go takes risk in presentation.  It keeps its dark corners and adult edge so as to never becoming cloying in its approach.  Krasinski and Rudolph break away from their television personas just enough to become wholly likable, separate entities. As they become unlikely leading actors, their performances are nuanced, understated, and easy to swallow.  You can trust them, and let's face it: it's great to watch a movie about people whose life seems within reach.  With all the other summer fare threatening to dull your senses, Away We Go is a welcomed breath of fresh air.  Treat it like a walk through an air conditioned park, and just go with it. The film has been slowly adding to its limited release, catch it before Harry Potter and Bruno blow it out of theaters everywhere.

2 comments:

  1. I want to say. I was totally prepared to hate this movie, expecting it to be utter hipster trash, but instead it won me over. It is indeed one of the sweetest, yet least cheesy movies I've ever experienced. Utterly wonderful!

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  2. Hi,
    I find it very interesting. Movies have always created an aura of magic and charm in the world of dream. A larger than life portrayal of characters, which make deep impressions in the sensitive minds of film lovers, remain forever. Hundreds of films are being made every year. But only a few movies can create that magic spell on its viewers.

    joshef

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