Rated R for language and some sexual content, 97 minutes
Tender, quirky and leisurely, "Away We Go" is a great date movie
"Away We Go" is a small film with a big heart. Quirky, sweet and sensitive, "Away We Go" is a fresh alternative to the big summer film of the moment and a perfect date getaway for a warm evening. It may be too leisurely, unconventional and even low-key for the masses, but director Sam Mendes and leads Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski strike a few genuinely tender and fun chords about a couple trying to find the meaning of home and family.
Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) are a loving couple who are expecting their first child. When Burt's self-absorbed parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) unexpectedly leave the country for other plans, the two travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time.
Poignant and unconventionally touching, "Away We Go" is a road trip film about an expectant couple who encounter some wildly unexpected events in their search for a home. Director Sam Mendes, who directed the somber, ultra-serious "Revolutionary Road," takes quite a turn with this episodic, quirky romantic comedy-road movie. It wears its pecularities on its sleeve proudly, but that is also its appeal. "Away We Go's" story has some flaws: the familiar, leisurely and episodic quality sometimes gives it a choppy, uneven feel and some plot points, particularly in its final act, aren't quite fleshed out.
"Away We Go's" central leads give sensitive performances that highlight the film. Krasinski, better known as Jim on TV's "The Office," and "Saturday Night Live" comedienne Rudolph make for an interesting pair. Playing polar opposities, initially they don't seem to go well, with Krasinski looking both scruffly and nerdy in beard and rimmed glasses, while Rudolph playing the sensible, balanced and smarter of the two. But their warm chemistry grows on you after each episode and providing some fun moments, especially when Burt must "test" the heartbeat of the baby.
The initial episodes of "Away We Go" are by far the more entertaining and some talented actors add to the movie's comic sensibilities. Daniels and especially O'Hara are a treat, though Allison Janney (of "The West Wing") is altogether a hoot as Verona's former boss, a brassy broad who'll speak her mind without hesitation, regardless of who's around. The role is small enough to make a big impression and small enough not to be annoying. The next stop we're greeted to a very flaky, weird friend of Burt's LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), whose ideas on parenting are as peculiar as the spelling of her name.
The final act of "Away We Go" is its most tender and sweet, with Burt and Verona finally discovering their home, each other and where they want to build a family, which was really right under their noses the whole time. But their journey has taught them to remain committed and that regardless of the location of their home, the most imporant part is them (a metaphor explained vividly with pancakes and syrup).
Rudolph (who is also the daughter of '70s soul singer Minnie Riperton) is lovely and I wish she'd make more films, though her character is the more underwritten of the leads (and exactly why she won't marry Burt), and "Away We Go" unfortunately ends just as we're getting to know her. I'm also glad that Krasinski has finally decided to go the independent film route, where he could have more success than with the mediocre, mainstream choices he's made so far. Their final, touchig scene together at their new home will leave you misty-eyed.
"Away We Go" isn't a perfect film, but it is a tender, sweet one that makes you wish more films were like it.