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|Away We Go
dir Sam Mendes
scr Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida
prd Sam Mendes, Peter Saraf, Edward Saxon, Marc Turtletaub
with John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels, Carmen Ejogo, Paul Schneider, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Messina, Jim Gaffigan, Josh Hamilton
release US 5.Jun.09, UK 18.Sep.09
On the road again: Rudolph and Krasinski
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This gentle comedy examines at how we set priorities, plan our futures and make our families. It's sweet and superficial, but the meandering pace and lively characters make it just about watchable.
Burt and Verona (Krasinski and Rudolph) are a sparky couple looking forward to the birth of their first child. But when Burt's nutty parents (O'Hara and Daniels) announce that they're suddenly moving to Belgium, Burt and Verona realise that nothing is holding them in Colorado. So they hit the road, visiting friends and siblings in Arizona, Wisconsin, Montreal and Miami. In each place, they see things they want for their own family home, but everyone they visit is full of surprises.
The oddest thing is that Burt and Verona don't appear to know anyone who's as sharp and happy as they are. They seem to be the only people on earth who are switched-on to what's happening around them and able to make a sensible decision. This makes the film feel increasingly smug and simplistic. And it's something Mendes' direction never undercuts: the film is deliberately quirky and scored with same-sounding indie songs (by Alexi Murdoch).
At least the outrageous-but-shallow characters they meet are entertaining, giving the actors a chance to steal scenes shamelessly. The most colourful roles go to Janney and Gyllenhaal, an out-of-control blabbermouth and annoying earth-mother, respectively. Their scenes are hysterically funny, even if their characters are rather cartoonish. Opposite these two and the other wacky people in each city, Krasinski and Rudolph seem almost dull in their loved-up perfection. Although it should be noted that they play it very nicely.
Where the film transcends this condescending set-up is in the themes examined along the way. Within Burt and Verona's quest is a dream scenario: they're unanchored from society, have jobs that don't requires them to leave the house, and are offered a chance to decide what they want out of life. This forces them to grapple with concepts of success and satisfaction, parenthood and priorities. It also allows the film to find some raw emotional moments amid the cloying eccentricity. And in the more sentimental scenes, it touches on the way love binds families together wherever they are.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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