AWAY WE GO
Directed by Sam Mendes and written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, Away We Go tells the story of unmarried thirty-something couple Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), whose extended adolescence is coming to an end with their baby due in three months whether they are ready or not. When Burt’s parents announce they are moving out of the country for a few years, he and Verona realize they have no reason to stay in Colorado, so they consider other places around the continent, visiting friends and family along the way who provide different perspectives on families and child-rearing.
In Arizona they meet up with Verona’s obnoxious former co-worker Lily (Alison Janney in a standout performance) and her husband Lowell (Jim Gaffigan), an unhappy couple who seem slightly regretful that they had kids. In Wisconsin, Burt’s family friend Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who now goes by LN, and her partner Roderick (Josh Hamilton) throw Burt and Verona off with their unusual and strident rules about raising their child, who sleeps in their large bed even if they make love. In Montreal, former college classmates Tom (Chris Messina) and Munch (Melanie Lynskey) are living a seemingly idyllic life with the adopted children they are raising. Burt and Verona have one more destination when a family member calls in dire need of help.
Away We Go has some very amusing moments, but it tries too hard to be a quirky, indie film at times, even down to the Juno-eqsue promotional poster. The story is a tad repetitive even though the situations are different, which reveals a problem with the structure of the screenplay. The pacing is off because it peaks too soon. Lily (Janney in particular is outstanding) and Lowell, the first stop on the trip, are the best sequence and everything after that is not as satisfying. While the emotional intensity of each subsequent sequence undeniably increases, the remaining actors don’t match their level of performance.
Making it all the more frustrating is Verona has the answer to solve their situation the entire time, yet a familial trauma keeps her from revealing it. Unfortunately, it is never dealt with in a believable manner, especially when she conveniently resolves her internal struggle rather quickly in the final moments of the film so the credits can roll.
While there were elements I enjoyed about Away We Go, I can’t recommend more than a matinee, although a home rental or cable viewing may be the best bet.