Sunday, July 12, 2009

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Away We Go

I don't know how to properly review Away We Go. I know I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it all that much, either. There are performances that are naturalistic, and there are those that are mere caricatures. There are subtle moments that ring true, and bigger moments that are awkward and fumbling in their falsity.

Is it the screenplay? Perhaps, for while the relationship between the leads is so convincingly crafted, everything else feels like an afterthought. The director? True, though he manages to get his actors to actually make people out of characters, he seems to have little imagination everywhere else, while also allowing a great actress to turn in a grating performance. The actors? Definitely not, as they provide whatever saving grace the film has.

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play 30-somethings with a baby on the way. This makes them question where they are in life, so they road trip to find a perfect home for themselves and their unborn baby. On their journey, they learn that everyone is in a worse/unhappier relationship than they are. This of course leads to fears on Krasinski's part, with the increasingly self-conscious Rudolph trying to calm his fears.

So, I guess I understand that this is all from their point of view, and that it's about taking control of your own life and finding your own groove to move to and yada yada. But why did it feel like the Krasinski/Rudolph method was the only way to go? Even with all their uncertainty and (gasp!) refusal to marry, the way the movie sided with them felt so...abrasive. Like, almost worryingly so.

Why does overbearing Allison Janney also have to have no filter and be a monster mother? Why am I supposed to dislike Maggie Gyllenhaal before there's any real reason to -- because she spells her name LN instead of Ellen? Why is the only "normal" marriage one fraught with depression, dissatisfaction, and miscarriages? It could be to show us that not everything works out fine, that life's not fair, yada-yada. But the execution is just so damned condescending.

It's not all bad. The actors deliver alot more than what they're given, with the exception of Jim Gaffigan and SSR favorite Allison Janney, who is EXTREMELY disappointing in an abrasively offensive role taht just doesn't know when enough's enough (GET IT? SHE'S A HORRIBLE MOTHER!!! GET IT???). Maggie Gyllenhaal actually plays the role of hippie earth-mother sincerely, and I was kind of on her side for a while. The stroller thing...kind of makes sense. It's not for me, necessarily, but I'm not going to go OH HOW BIZAAAAAAARRE WHAT AN AWFUL PARENT! (Didn't understand Krasinski's shamefaced look at the mention of him going to Burning Man, either. Is Burning Man bad? I always thought it sounded pretty neat.)

The song score is distracting, the songs themselves forgettable. It really does play like a how-to on indie dramedy. Which is a shame, because Krasinski and Rudolph actually manage to make the material work a number of times. Perhaps Sam Mendes is to blame; much of his work is cynical and detached, and I feel like a little story like this needs so much more than that. Certainly detachment is not the way to go in such a personal story like this.

See it for the actors, if you must see it at all. But I really don't think you're missing much.

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