June 22, 2009

Movie Review: Away We Go

There's a problem with great movie trailers – it's almost inevitable that the actual movie can't live up to the promise. This was the case with 'Away We Go, a trailer that I've been swooning over since it debuted early this year. Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie – a lot – but, like when a single is the best song on the album, I couldn't help but feel a little let down.

'Away We Go' could almost have been two separate movies. The first half is knee-slapping funny, telling a road trip story about an almost-loser couple (Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski) redeemed by their love for one another, searching for a new place to settle down and raise their first child. As in a classic road trip story, we meet quirky characters, like the boozing middle aged couple that takes their kids to the greyhound racetrack. Allison Janney and the brother from 'My Boys' were seriously hilarious. But it's the second quirky character that really stole the show – Maggie Gyllenhaal's LN (Ellen). She's a wacky liberal professor, who we first meet with two children too old to be breast feeding doing just that. We learn that her family doesn't believe in strollers and all sleep in the same bed, and they dismiss the idea that one must "make a living” - it's just the right amount of over-the-top to be laugh out-loud funny (And if you don't believe me, just ask the guy behind us in the theater – I'd hate to hear how loudly he guffaws during actual comedies.).

Alternating with the funny characters, there are some real poignant moments. We meet Maya Rudolph's sister and learn that their parents died when she was 22. We meet the couple's college friends, who have an amazing marriage and a big, ol' happy family of adopted children – and learn that they've suffered through 5 miscarriages. We meet John Krasinksi's brother, whose wife has just left him and their young daughter. As the movie meanders along, the quietly uplifting sobriety of these plotlines takes over, leading to a final 3 minutes that are completely (and satisfyingly) dialogue-free.

Aside from the brilliance of Maggie Gyllenhaal and some truly beautifully framed shots (the movie was directed by Sam Mendes, who must have really needed a Happy Couple story after the disaster that was 'Revolutionary Road.'), Maya Rudolph is insanely likable in the movie, and I was almost able to forget the John Krasinski is Jim Halpert (I won't go into the details, since it'd be a multi-tiered spoiler alert around the last season finale of 'The Office' and the movie, but there were two minor plot points just too close to the Jim and Pam relationship for me to ignore).

What I enjoyed most about the movie was being put directly into the middle of the couple's relationship. We didn't have to learn how they met, or watch them fight and realize that they're in love, it was a given that this was the real thing, and I really enjoyed that rare-in-the-movie-world stability. 7.75 Twix bars!