29 June 2009 | Red-125
A road movie with a difference
Away We Go (2009), directed by Sam Mendes, is a road movie with a difference. Many road movies involve strangers met by the protagonist as he or she travels from place to place. Away We Go sends the two main characters into different locations, but all the people they meet are people they already know, or think they know.
When Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph) learns that she is pregnant, the question for her and her partner, Burt (John Krasinkski) is, Where do we live after the baby is born? To answer the question, they travel from distant (U.S. and Canadian) city to distant city. Mostly what they find is disappointment and bad surprises.
Lily (Allison Janney), a former boss and friend, proves to be a dysfunctional person raising a dysfunctional family. A "cousin," LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gives new meaning to the words New Age. Verona's sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo) has her own problems and heartaches.
There are jokes (and laughs) along the way, but, the trip gets more and more discouraging (for them and us) as the movie goes along. What saves Verona and Burt (and the movie) is the loving, caring, and realistic relationship between the couple. They're both interesting, quirky, and attractive people. We care for them, and we want their quest to succeed.
Both Janney and Gyllenhaal are outstanding--as expected--although Mendes has portrayed both their characters in an exaggerated, over-the-top fashion. That's OK--we get the point, and the movie is a work of fiction, not a documentary.
Maya Rudolph makes a smooth transition from TV (SNL) to film. She's not drop-dead beautiful in the Hollywood style, which makes her more attractive (to me) and more appropriate to the character she plays.
Burt's character is more problematic. He's supposed to be someone who "sells insurance to insurance companies," but he looks and dresses more like an assistant manager at a fast- food restaurant. (He goes to a job interview dressed like someone who has picked out his clothing at a thrift shop.) And, given his moderate success in business, and Verona's equally moderate success as a medical illustrator, they're amazingly casual about spending money. Are they using their life's savings?
All in all, this is a movie worth seeing, but not likely to be on anyone's list of all-time favorite movies. We saw it at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It would also work well on DVD.