Monday, September 07, 2009

Away We Go

"I can't believe you told your mother about my tilted uterus!"

Written by: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Cast: Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski, Maggie Gyllenhaal

From Sam Mendes, the Brit who dared to deconstruct and disintegrate the American Dream in his classic American Beauty and in last year’s profoundly tragic Revolutionary Road, comes a story that in some ways criticises several conventions of the modern American family but most importantly, at its heart, it shows great hope for the future of the America.

The story follows young couple, Burt and a very pregnant Verona, as they travel to various places in America and Canada in search of a place to start their family. Burt and Verona are very much in love. They share a very close friendship, respect and appreciation of each other. A relationship of that calibre is a rarity in these cynical times and it is lovely to see it portrayed without being overly-sentimental. It uniquely shows the audience a couple who make being in love look easy. This is indescribably refreshing.

Burt and Verona travel from place to place meeting an assortment of crazy friends and family, each with their own quirks and issues. They try to decide what kind of parents they want to be and what kind of children they want to raise. Being earthy, borderline hippie, but sensible people, they try to find the balance between normal and special. A main plot point is Verona’s reluctance to get married. She doesn’t believe in it. This fits in with themes in Mendes’ previous work of marriage as an unnecessary stunting bind between couples. In a touching scene towards the end, the script deftly resolves this issue while making an interesting statement about the institute of marriage in an increasingly secular world.

Mendes truly struck gold in his casting choice with Rudolph and Krasinski. Maya Rudolph positively glows throughout the film and manages to be both super-cool and accessible. Warm and wise, she radiates love and contentment…but not in an annoying way. John Krasinski tones down his nice-guy persona to a nice-but-quiet guy. His character is warm but quiet and charmingly sensitive. Their chemistry is remarkable and with both of their CVs being full of comedy it’s nice to see them handle the drama and subtleties so beautifully.

You may think this sounds unbearably sentimental and touchy-feely but I assure you there’s enough bite in this script to ensure that it doesn’t get bogged down. This is definitely a feel-good movie, but it is so maturely handled that it never descends into corny!

With its lacksydaisy pacing, its heart on its sleeve and its striking visual style, this ranks with Mendes’ best work, though far simpler than his previous films. Highly, highly recommended.

- Charlene Lydon

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