June 25, 2009

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Away We Go (R)
A cute but nervous couple contemplates finding a new home as they await the birth of their child in Away We Go, a somewhat precious but sweet, likeable film.

Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), unmarried but committed, are expecting. They live what seems to be a pleasant life — Verona is a medical illustrator and Burt works in insurance — but Verona suspects they might also be screw-ups, a sense that is heightened as she considers the approaching birth of her baby. When Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels) unexpectedly announce that they plan to move abroad for a few years (missing the birth and the first few years of the baby’s life — the years Burt and Verona had hoped to lean on them), Burt and Verona consider leaving the area. They want to be near family and friends, to find a home that says Home to them.

Thus, they travel. In Phoenix, they hang with Verona’s inappropriate, unhappily married friend Lily (Allison Janney). In Tuscon, they spend time with Verona’s sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo). In Madison, it’s Burt’s flakey, hippy cousin LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal) — she doesn’t want a stroller because why would she want to push her babies away from her. In Montreal, it’s the warm and happy (seemingly) family of college buddies Tom (Chris Messina) and Munch (Melanie Lynskey). In Miami, it’s Burt’s brother (Paul Schneider), recently left by his wife and worrying about his now motherless daughter. This discussion of where to live isn’t just about location — it’s about how to live, what kind of family Burt and Verona want. It’s one thing to be sort of romantically adrift in those years after college, it’s another thing to be Burt and Verona — people in their 30s and unclear exactly what kind of life they want to be living. Away We Go isn’t, therefore, about one of the dramatic life stages — coming of age, post-college, mid-life crisis. It’s about the part where you say “huh, so, this is my life,” unsure how you feel about what you see.

I think it’s the mushiness of this subject matter that can make the film seem a little mushy itself, a bit half-baked and overly concerned with its own little moments. But I find that kind of fitting — the tone matches the subject, just as the hipster-in-middle-age humor matches the story itself. And the movie is funny if you buy in to its point of view — much of it of the quiet chuckle kind of humor except for a few big laughs, including one little boy’s out-of-nowhere response to his mother’s prodding that he “tell the nice people what you know about babies.” It’s a kind of delightful weirdness that you’ll either be able to buy or not — if you can’t, I could see how it would tip the movie over into “insufferably cute” territory. But I bought and, for its fun characters and solid performances, liked it. B

Rated R for language and some sexual content. Directed by Sam Mendes and written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, Away We Go is an hour and 37 minutes long and distributed in limited release by Focus Features. It is scheduled to open Friday, June 26, at Red River Theatres.