Away We Go
June 5, 2009
On the Big Board
||Krasinski's outburst scenes are hilarious, and the rest is just honest to goodness sweet romance.
||Absolutely wonderful. Alternates between hilarious, emotional and heartbreaking, but always genuine. Krasinski and Rudolph are wonderful together here.
||John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph do great work. Meditations on growing up and finding your place should be boring, but Away We Go is not.
Sam Mendes is not one for sticking to a comfort zone. He followed American Beauty with gangster film Road to Perdition (itself an adaptation of a graphic novel) and then turned to Gulf War film Jarhead (another adaptation). He’s been making big American genre films with US dollars and stirring it up a bit in the proess. Although he’s been changing his style after American Beauty, the hint of American suburbia came back to him in Revolutionary Road (another adaptation...hmm).
“I definitely feel drawn to family dynamics,” says Mendes. “Dynamics between parents and children and men and women. And that, I find very fascinating and very fulfilling.” Being an outsider to American culture might explain why his perspective on family relationships translates so successfully to the screen. One could almost mistake Mendes’ next film, Away We Go, as a prequel for American Beauty.
The film follows Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), a couple who is expecting their first child together. Feeling that they’ve never really belonged anywhere, they decide to travel around the US, meeting old friends in order to find a perfect place to start their family.
Labeled as a comedy, with Mendes directing, the premise itself could go into deeper territory. The sickeningly sentimental, “home is where the heart is” adage would be the predictable outcome. However if the couple can’t stomach that and decide to set out on this adventure instead, could it eventually suggest that for some people maybe there isn’t a single place in America that’s good enough to start a family? Not even the Disneyland Resort? Curiously this sounds similar to a segment in Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, where Frank and April Wheeler plan to start anew by leaving America altogether and moving to Paris.
Written by husband and wife Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this is their first screenplay together. Eggers is most famous for his book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius back in 2000; a memoir which chronicled his struggle to raise his younger brother.
The film leads include John Krasinski from The Office, who also worked with Mendes before on Jarhead, and Maya Rudolph, the other half of the couple who has been turning up on Saturday Night Live, though her last leading role was in cult hit Idiocracy. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara and notably Maggie Gyllenhaal, who replaced Toni Collette, playing a bohemian professor who is an old friend of Krasinski’s character, Burt.
Mendes’ biggest hit was American Beauty, with a gross of $356 million worldwide. Since then he hasn’t really put a foot wrong in regards to directing quality films, though each one has dealt with slightly more depressing subject matter, which might explain the drop in box office take (Road to Perdition, $181 million worldwide; Jarhead, $96 million worldwide). Away We Go could change that, especially since its more upbeat then anything he’s done before. (Shalimar Sahota/BOP)