Early on in “Away We Go”, Maya Rudolph’s character asks her boyfriend, “are we fuck-ups?” Because Dave Eggers co-wrote the script, the answer is surely a resounding “yes”. In an earlier post mentioning Eggers’ first novel, I said “Eggers is a great stylist, but must all of his books feature such aimless losers?” In truth, I’ve only read two of his books, but that’s kind of how I felt about “Away We Go”.
The movie’s plot is frustratingly thin. Verona (Maya Rudoplh) and Bert (John Krasinski) are expecting a baby, and so travel the country looking for a new home to raise a family. The film’s inciting incident–Bert’s parents announce they’re moving to Belgium–reveals the protagonists as selfish slackers. It’s as though we’re watching Juno and Paulie, fifteen years later. This isn’t really a legitimate critique of the film, but I found the lead characters’ charmless entitlement really frustrating. So much so that it distracted from my enjoyment of the film.
Which is too bad, because the movie is comprised of a bunch of great scenes. The script, though overly concerned with meta-discussions of language, feels truthful, and the supporting cast–Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Paul Schneider, among others–are all excellent in their one-off scenes. But the movie never seems to coalesce into a fully-realized work of art. Like Eggers’s books, it meanders.
Sam Mendes directs, so the film is a visual treat. In “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road”, the British director seemed a little obsessed with the American suburb. In this movie, Mendes heads out on the highway, looking for adventure. The result is splendid road trip fare, from Phoenix to Montreal.
And even though they express themselves with a measure of diffidence, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clear that they are acutely, at times painfully, aware of their special status as uniquely sensitive, caring, smart and cool beings on a planet full of cretins and failures.
Metacritic gives the film a 57, which feels about right.