Friday, June 5, 2009

Away We Go

Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
Starring John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, and Allison Janney

It seems like not a month goes by in which some small little picture is released in which all the characters have distinct personality hang ups. These quirks are usually pretty funny but would be terribly annoying if anybody were to exhibit them in actual life. Take for instance the brother's vow of silence in Little Miss Sunshine  or anything Juno says in Juno

In Away We Go directed by Sam Mendes each and every character has some kind of little quirk about them. However, in this case all the other characters are slightly annoyed or entertained by these quirks. From time to time the two main characters Burt and Verona played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, seem to annoy the crap out of one another. However, their love helps them accept each other despite those annoyances. Early on in the film the two of them are on their way to visit Burt's parents when he receives a work related phone call. He proceeds to talk in such an annoying voice that Verona stops the car and takes a walk to get away from it. When Burt is done with his call he gets out and apologizes to her and explains that he uses that voice  because his clients all expect him to act just like them. They are all about 20 years older than him and he needs to fit in. The whole conversation is played as if they have had it before and  from time to time Verona just can't take it. When that happens she just needs to get away and take a breath of fresh air. After a few moments they get back in the car and drive on to his parent's house.

It is here that they are told that Burt's parents will be moving away a month before their first baby is born. Burt and Verona only live where they live because his parents are nearby. Upon hearing the news that they are moving Burt and Verona decide that it is time for them to move as well. They decide to go to Phoenix, Madison, and Montreal and decide whether or not they want to move to any of those cities. They choose those cities because they have either family or friends in each one. 

The friends are all as quirky and weird as Burt and Verona. Again, I bought the quirkiness because A) I have known people like each one of the characters and B) Burt and Verona react to each one of the characters. When Burt and Verona visit the home of Burt's childhood friend LN (Ellen) played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, they are very unsettled by her hippy ways. For example she refuses to push her children in a stroller because kids feel so isolated in the world why should their parents push them away. 

Each stop along the way forces Burt and Verona to define not only their relationship but also their definition of home. I saw the film with a friend who felt like Burt and Verona just became spectators at each city the visited. This is certainly true but I enjoyed the subtle realization the two of them had about one another in the face of their friends and family. At each stop they learned a little bit more about the couple and parents that they wanted to be and who they didn't want to become. Though, to be fair, director Mendes is a little too subtle in showing  growth between the two characters. I'm left to wonder if he put it their or if I just filled in the lines. 

Mendes is trying something new with this film, namely he is trying to make a comedy. His first film was American Beauty (1999) and his last film was Revolutionary Road (2008) between those two films he hasn't done anything much lighter. I'm happy to report that this film had some big laughs. In the past, when he explored the relationship between a man and a woman it has been very destructive. In this film he explores what keeps a couple together through-out all the highs and lows. 

One of the topics that this film explores is the idea that most people aren't settling into their lives until much later. I have often talked about with friends how 30 seems like the new 25, meaning people don't seem to have a handle on who they are and who they want to be until then. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I am 27 as I write this so this is all just a theory. However, the film does seem to confirm that theory. 

Both Burt and Verona are in this early to mid thirties. He is 33 and she is 34 and they wonder out loud to one another if they are screw ups. Bert has a very frank conversation with a friend in Montreal about the consequences of waiting until your mid-thirties to try and have children. Finally, all the characters act a little childish especially Burt who hasn't had a reason to grow up yet. In fact his image of what a father should be seems to be very similar to how a child looks at his own father. He figures that fathers need to be able to make things so he decides that he needs to learn how to cobble. 

All these characters are quirky but it is the kind of quirky that I have found in people in my life. That is why I bought it. In addition I have spent countless hours wondering what it means to be an adult. It is because of these reasons that I found Away We Go so entertaining.

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