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Away We Go Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

The first time I heard about Away We Go I was excited. Scranton-ite that I am, I’ll watch almost anything with The Office’s John Krasinski, and Sam Mendes is a great director (although I think American Beauty is vastly overrated). But there was one thing that was really bothering me about this project: I thought it looked and sounded like another Juno (which, if you know me, is not a good thing).

In some ways, it is reminiscent of Jason Reitman’s 2007 film. The posters all look like Juno. It features an unusual indie-rock soundtrack. It features a pregnant young woman trying to cope with an unexpected pregnancy, and a scared young man who wants to support his girl but is fearful for what the future will bring. Luckily, it turns out that Away We Go is no Juno. It’s superior in almost every way. The comedy is actually funny. The performances are great. And perhaps the biggest and most important difference is that, unlike Juno, the writing in Away We Go is sweet and splendid.

Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are about to have a baby. After learning that Burt’s parents are moving to Belgium, the couple freaks out. They think they might be fuck-ups and don’t know if they can raise a child by themselves. So they decide to travel to the homes of their friends and relatives. They go to Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, and Miami all in search of the best support system and perfect place to raise their daughter. Along the way, they learn a lot about family, parenthood, and themselves.

Like all road movies, Away We Go is made up of a series of vignettes in each city. And like most road movies, some work, and some don’t. The Phoenix trip, which features a loud-mouthed Allison Janney as Burt and Verona’s friend, Lily, is hilarious. On the flip side, the scenes in Wisconsin are awful. They totally disrupt the film’s flow, and the less said about Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance as a new age professor named LN the better.

Other than Gyllenhaal, the performances from this deep and talented ensemble range from good and excellent. The best is Maya Rudolph. This is an eye-opening performance from the SNL alum. Her Verona is strong and independent. She never caves in to her refusal to marry Burt because “there is no point.” She is also quite vulnerable. She worries about her boobs (although not as much as Burt) and still has trouble thinking about her deceased parents. John Krasinski proves more than capable of handling the dramatic stuff, but his best scenes are comedic in nature.

The rest of the cast is made up of Burt and Verona’s friends and family. I’ve already mentioned Gyllenhaal’s rough performance and Janney’s hilarious one. Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels play Burt’s self-absorbed parents in another one of the film’s funniest scenes. Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey are Burt and Verona’s Montreal friends who are unable to conceive. Their scenes are terrific, but too short. Paul Schneider is Burt’s brother whose wife has just walked out on him and his daughter. These scenes lead to the film’s emotional climax.

Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida wrote the screenplay and should be applauded for mixing the comedy and drama so well. They’ve also created a film that’s very sweet, but not in a nauseating way. The film earns the smile you’ll have on your face as the film reaches a very fitting conclusion.

There’s nothing terribly original about Away We Go, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It follows the template of a road movie, and rarely deviates from that path. But the genuinely funny comedy, thoughtful character development, and sharp writing make this a trip worth taking.

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