In “Away We Go” John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play Burt Verona, an unmarried thirtysomething couple in love and expecting a baby. He deals with insurance issues. She is a medical illustrator.
Dazed and confused by the imminent challenge, they take to the road; this is after they learn that Burt’s parents, played in dull fashion by Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels, are taking a two-year hiatus in Belgium.
‘Away We Go’
DIRECTED BY Sam Mendes
SCREENPLAY BY Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
STARRING John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal
RUNNING TIME 90 minutes
Oops. It’s the first of many disillusionments in a movie that is too often as dull as some of its characters. On the other hand, “Away We Go” provides ample food for thought as it serves up recognizable people, many who need to get a life. Among the many: Verona and Burt.
The movie is structured around a traditional road trip — a pastiche of “Huckleberry Finn” and “Catcher in the Rye.” On their journey, Verona and Burt run into couples with children, depictions leading us to surmise that writers Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”) and his wife, Vendela Vida, are attempting to explore the state of modern couples faced with reconciling love with the responsibilities that come with imminent parenthood.
In short, they have to learn how to grow up.
Moreover, except for one couple (American friends in Montreal) the portrait presents a crazy quilt of characters.
If the filmmakers want us to regard these oddballs as typical Americans parents, boy, are we in trouble.
We will surely recognize the ditzy mother played by Maggie Gyllenhaal; God help her kid, who she won’t allow to sit in a stroller. In Tucson, Verona and Burt spend time with a foul-mouthed college friend (Allison Janney) married to a beer-guzzling jerk.
Directed by Sam Mendes, who gave us “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road,” “Away We Go” avoids blatant cynicism. But, even with its nonchalant approach, it cannot hide its dominant observation that despite their eccentricities, Burt and Verona are more stable than their friends and family. Still, we may regard them as goofballs, hardly worth emulating.
If this muted comedy is accurate, it rates mention in a chapter devoted to the dull decline of the American family. As for the performances, Krasinski has to escape the confines of sitcomdom. Rudolph shows range and depth. We need to see more of her.
Reach Dan DiNicola at [email protected]