Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Film Review - Away We Go

Film #3 of 2010

I actually decided to hold off on reviewing this movie, because I wasn't sure how I actually felt about it. When all was said and done, I felt a definite sense of detachment, but the question is, "Is that what I was supposed to feel?"

Away We Go is the latest film by director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) and stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as an unmarried couple in their 30's who embark on a cross-country trip in order to "find their place in the world" before the birth of their baby. Faced with the choice of being with family or friends, or moving somewhere for a job, or just settling down where they think they will be happy, the two encounter a few different types of families in their quest to "be adult" and strive for their own version of perfection.

I loved the flow of Away We Go, and it certainly had a breezy spirit. Unlike some of Mendes' other films, such as the aforementioned American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, Away We Go examines relationships, including conflict and the "dark underbelly" of outwardly normal people without becoming overly dark and dramatic. Certainly on the lighter end of the melodramatic spectrum, Away We Go is able to examine extremely flawed relationships without being heavy-handed. However, the lighter tone lends itself to appearing detached, with a lack of focus, which I admit I struggled with. I found that I didn't really care about the characters that much, and, since I actually enjoyed many parts of the film, wondered if this was intentional. Unfortunately, for a film that is so character driven, I don't think that was Mendes' intent.

Krasinski and Rudolph were decent as Verona and Burt, but I fear that my knowledge of one actor and not the other got in the way of viewing their performances. Krasinski was simply his character "Jim" from The Office, only with nerd glasses and a beard that covered most of his face. This isn't necessarily bad, because I think that Burt and Jim are similar characters, but it didn't really showcase any range on Krasinski's part. Since I'm not a Saturday Night Live viewer, I don't know anything about Maya Rudolph, and if her performance was a stretch, but I was torn between wondering if her detached demeanor was intentional or her acting style. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a great job in a cameo that borders between supremely annoying and hilarious, especially during a superb dinner scene.

None of these criticisms killed the film for me, but I am still struggling with how I really felt about Away We Go, and I can't decide whether this is a good or bad thing. The conceit of the film was examining relationships, and finally "becoming an adult", which can occur at many different stages of one's life - and Away We Go succeeded in its task. I definitely had more positive than indifferent feelings for the film, but while this is a positive film overall, there was nothing enlightening or even very exciting that the film offered.

3 out of 5 stars

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