Younger moviegoers in search of thoughtful, literate romantic comedies that credit them for being intelligent and sensitive might respond strongly to Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road, American Beauty) from a screenplay by husband-and-wife writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.
An often-rueful road picture, modeled a bit on Flirting With Disaster, it sometimes goes for big laughs as it follows unmarried couple Burt (The Office’s John Krasinski) and Verona (Saturday Night Live’s Maya Rudolph) as they visit friends and relatives in search of a new home while she awaits the birth of their first child. The film is an investigation into the point of marriage in a world where people often fall short of their dreams and the death of loved ones is inevitable.
It’s really a writers’ movie, and you might sense some of Eggers’ own story in the quietly melancholy character of Verona, whose parents died while she was in college. (He rose to fame for writing A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, about raising his young brother after their parents both died of cancer.)
But while Rudolph holds the screen commandingly with her long-haired, wide-eyed Botticellian beauty, her character is a bit of a cipher — Verona seems too passive. Some excellent actors get a chance to show off in on-the-road vignettes that move from wacky (Allison Janey as a loud, profane friend in Phoenix) to soulful (Carmen Ejogo as Verona’s younger sister). But the writing sometimes falters in these scenes as if Eggers and Vida were unsure of tone, especially at the clumsy conclusion of a subplot involving a sublimely hilarious Maggie Gyllenhaal as an eccentric New Age college professor. Grade: B
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