Friday, June 26, 2009
AWAY WE GO (Dir. Sam Mendes, 2009)
As a unmarried couple in their mid 30's, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph roll with the punch of pregnancy without exaggerated comical reaction or cutesy comebacks. The same can be said for AWAY WE GO - Sam Mendes' follow-up to the cautionary tale period piece REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.
Krasinski and Rudolph live like college kids who have just moved in together. Their home is a broken down one story shack in the woods with no heat and cardboard covering one of the windows. "We don't even have the basic stuff figured out", Rudolph pouts one dark cold night after their power goes off.
Krasinski tries to console but she can't help but repeating: "I think we may be fuck-ups." With a baby on the way, the couple desire to live near family. Rudolph's parents are both deceased so this falls to Krasinski's parents, living close to them in Denver, played perfectly by Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels.
This safety blanket is pulled off abruptly when O'Hara and Daniels announce that they are moving to Belgium. "You're moving 3 thousand miles away from your granchild!" Krasinski exclaims. "I think it's more than 3 thousand," is his aloof mother's response. Rudolph proposes they travel to seek out a new home, preferably near family or close friends. With big white on black block letter titles telling us which destination is next continually ("AWAY TO...") we visit Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, and Miami; each location introducing a bevy of curious characters.
Sure, there are obligatory quirks aplenty with such stand-outs as Maggie Gyllenhall's self righteous earth mother who refuses to put her children in strollers and Allison Janey's sobering examples of obnoxious parenting, but the film is always grounded in a realism rarely found at the movies today (especially in the blockbuster world of summer). Though I never expected Krasinski to make his patented 'did you get that?' look to the camera, his character is a lot like a bearded Jim from The Office - a well meaning, funny, and mildly neurotic guy who genuinely loves his girlfriend.
Rudolph (known largely for being a long running cast member on SNL) shows layers she has never shown before but in movies like a lead in IDIOCRACY or lost in the ensemble in A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, how could she? Even with its multitude of standard issue sun drenched shots, poignant close-ups, and acoustic singer songwriter balladry (provided by Alexi Murdoch), this is a superior indie film to most. It has very little in the way of plot point payoffs or forced comedic contrivances. It just asks us to spend some time with a few likable characters at a crossroads.
Dave Eggers, whose 2000 book "A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius" I highly recommend, is new to screenwriting yet this (co-written with his wife Vendela Vida) is a confident and accomplished debut. Mendes clears the air from the disturbing and foul feeling REVOLUTIONARY ROAD effectively and we are left with this sweet diversion. An "indie sleeper" if there ever was one, AWAY WE GO is quite a keeper.