Monday, October 12, 2009
On the road to nowhere
By Edward Copeland
When a film is structured as a road trip, basically a series of vignettes, you're going to run into trouble when the characters your main protagonists meet along the way are infinitely more interesting than the film's stars are. Each time you run into a new set of potentially fascinating people, Away We Go jerks the characters away and sticks you back into the company of the two bores you began the journey with and from whom you were seeking respite.
John Krasinksi and Maya Rudolph star as Burt and Verona, a couple expecting their first child in Sam Mendes' film of Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida's screenplay. The pair are uncertain where and how to make a life. Burt would like to wed, but Verona sees no need and two take off across North America seeing friends, acquaintances and relatives to get ideas of what to do and what not to do in their future. While Krasinksi and Rudolph each have their moments, especially Krasinski, the stars are overshadowed by the characters they meet on their journey,
First, there is an all-to-brief but fun appearance by Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara as Burt's parents. They are followed by hysterical turns by Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan as a long married couple and later by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton as a New Agey pair who believe they have all the answers and finally set Burt off.
The problem with Away We Go, as with most films of this sort of episodic nature, is that the structure comes prebuilt with its own inevitable series of ups and downs and some parts work better than others and the whole suffers as a result.
This is doubly the case here since we never get a good hook on who Burt and Verona are and why we should care enough to follow these two around to begin with. Away We Go isn't a bad film, it's just one that was flawed from its conception and the movie that ended up being born as a result just doesn't work.