Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Movie Review: Away We Go (2009)

The Office's John Krasinski? Check. Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph? Check. Standard indie-folk rock soundtrack? Check. Awkwardly hilarious and charmingly poignant? Double check. It's kind of an overload to have more than one independent rom-com in one year (what? Did I sound too Hollywood by saying "rom-com"?), but the indie community wants their films and they want it now! Like, this Summer-now! And the first will be Away We Go (with the second going to 500 Days of Summer), and not a bad choice either. The film is directed by Sam Mendes, who, if you're paying attention, also made American Beauty, Jarhead and Revolutionary Road. And if you've really paid attention, then you can expect some sharp jabs to your conventional perception of relationships that's usually kept hush-hush.

The movie is centered around Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph); a lovely little secluded couple that seems to reside in a house in the middle of WhereTheFuckAreTheysVille. The film begins with kind of an awkward scene (especially when you're on kind of a friend date thing with someone you've never gone out with before) where Burt is performing *ahem* well, let's just say he gets more than just dessert after eating dinner at the "Y". And by more, I mean the discovery that Verona is preggers. Whaaaaaaatt? Yeah, she's with child. So upon finding out that Burt's "tasteful" theory is correct, they both break the news to Burt's parents (played by Catherine O' Hara and Jeff Daniels) and have dinner to celebrate. Unbeknownst to our film's couple, Burt's parents have other plans that involve them moving to Belgium instead of sticking around for their grandchild's birth. Heartbroken and feeling a sudden wave of lonliness, Burt and Verona begin to put their lives into perspective by asking the age old question: "Are we losers?" (to which Burt convinces Verona that they're not despite having wood boards for windows). After this question is unconvincingly answered, they both decide that since Burt's parents aren't sticking around, then they don't have to either. And so, our fearless duo come up with a plan to visit various friends and family across the U.S. to determine which place will be best to raise their unborn child. In their adventures across the nation, they run into their fair share of lush couples, tragic stories, unorthodox parents and broken families (of course, all in typical Mendes fashion) before making their own decision on where to end up. Of course, I'm not one to ruin movies so I'll leave it up to you to watch if you haven't already.

Now I'm sure everybody has their expectations of this movie, being that "Jim" from The Office is going to be in it. I'm sure everybody wrote it off as another flick filled with quirky little looks from our male lead which isn't too far from the truth. But the refreshing thing is that he magnified that persona by 10 and in all actuality did a successful job at setting himself from his counterpart. He grew a nice looking beard, threw on some expected rags and completely made the role his own. Krasinski's character was humorous and charming, and surprisingly never ever let the audience down as a budding father / boyfriend. Usually in movies like these, the male part does something to completely fuck up the relationship (and then goes on to redeem themselves yada yada yada), but not in Away We Go. You'll like Burt. And you're gonna keep liking Burt until the very end. There couldn't have been anybody else better to take on this role; yes it was expected, but at least it met your expectations rather than disappointed right?

As for Ms. Rudolph, this movie was a bit of a stretch for a female comedian to take on. I mean, coming from the likes of Saturday Night Live and Idiocracy, it was hard to imagine Maya Rudolph in a semi-dramatic role as a pregnant girlfriend. But then again, the movie itself wasn't that dense; but surely it demanded less of a slapstick approach and more of a touching hilarity that is reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine. But alas, Rudolph takes flight in this film and charms her audience with her tribulations as a maternal girlfriend. Her visage, chock full of freckles and non-existent make-up, is framed by her tousled hair. Her appearance adorned with maternal semi maxi dresses and sometimes blanketed with a heavy jacket. And she has an indelicate approach towards her whole pregnant situation and yet, of all this supposed homely-ness, you still find her radiantly attractive. You can't help but fall in love with Rudolph as she wearily takes off on a quest across the States to Mordor in order to return the Ring. Wait, wrong movie. But you know what I mean.

Krasinski and Rudolph's on-camera romance is so natural and effortless that it's alluring and makes you root for them the whole way through the movie. Not once do they do any wrong as parents, which is surprising, considering Mendes' knack for portraying the twisted realities of potentially doomed relationships. More or less, Mendes steps away from our revered couple and throws that meat to the supporting cast to digest while Krasinski and Rudolph are free to roam across the screen (they literally do so very candidly). The other couples in the movie are what Mendes' movies are made of. Keyword: dysfunctional. Sometimes it's obvious, and sometimes (just like American Beauty) you have to look below the surface. But regardless, you'll see the amusing tragedies unfold on screen, all brought together by the most quintessential indie-folk soundtrack for a movie ever. Nothing oozed "indie" (are you hating that word yet?) more than the flims music.
All in all, it was a seductively sweet movie that successfully portrays the alternative parenting styles of couples. But more importantly, it depicts the convictions of a couple so intent on raising a child in the perfect place that it makes you want to provide the perfect home and community for them. It's a story bleeding with hope and adversity. And in the end, it really wants to make you pack your things and carelessly leave your surroundings for something better. Hell, aren't we all trying to constantly do that now?