All the Quirky and Wacky People
Away We Go, Sam Mendes's foray into indie-flavored movies, is tripped up by its own concept before it begins. A quirky expecting couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) travel around the country visiting relatives and old friends in search of a place to settle and raise their family, and, wouldn't you know it, these people they see are all decidedly wacky.
Because the script was written by the husband-wife team of Dave Eggars and Vendela Vida, one wouldn't think such seasoned writers would resort to the easy-target school of humor -- there's nothing like making your protagonists, even if they are goofy, feel like sane centers the audience can get behind by surrounding them with extreme personalities (plus most of them have kids and rear them radically differently, providing obvious perspective).
And yet the film is made watchable by its best elements -- it's refreshing to see two usually supporting actors play the leads, and they do their jobs well, with the reserved, grounded Rudolph balancing Krasinski's more kinetic and quite funny performance. A bit of memorable support comes from Maggie Gyllenhaal, playing the wackiest of the wacky friends, who is able to pull it off because she sells the believable absurdity of her character well. The good acting provides an example of what might make this kind of formula work, but it's quite an uphill battle when one can see the scripted situations acting as comic (and, when the story needs it, heartwarming/breaking) fallbacks. (Capsule review)
(Released by Focus Features and rated "R" for language and some sexual content.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com