Imagine my glee when a screening invite to Away We Go, a romantic dramedy directed by Sam Mendes, with a screenplay by my favorite authors (Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida), and an ensemble cast helmed by John Krasinski from The Office and former SNL star Maya Rudolph, landed in my inbox. Impossible that this won’t be fantastic; it’s like a movie made specifically to appeal to my demographic! (Just look at the poster.) The premise was equally promising: A 30-something couple gets pregnant and takes a trip to several cities where they’ve got friends and family to figure out where they want to raise their child. Sadly, I was way off.
I don’t really know how to better describe Away We Go than this: It’s like that really attractive yet nice kid who you went to high school with who was “popular” but kind of detached due to their perfection. Or as A.O. Scott puts it in the kicker of his review in the New York Times, “Does it sound as if I hate this movie? Don’t be silly. But don’t be fooled. This movie does not like you.”
A few things about Away We Go made me really happy: Director of photography Ellen Kuras is brilliant. She makes every scene — even the ones set at a scuzzy dog track in Arizona — achingly beautiful. Rudolph and Krasinki (Verona and Burt) are cute together, albeit damned by the fact that their characters rhetorically ask if they’re fuck-ups, only to run around for an hour and half judging or feeling sorry for everyone who they meet. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney (playing L N, a New Agey professor; and Lily, a loudmouthed suburban mom) deliver lines that made me laugh out loud. Finally, I was obsessed with Verona’s childhood home. (Seriously. The last time I saw a house in a movie that I wanted this badly was that horrible Great Expectations remake.)
I spent a few days after seeing Away We Go trying to figure out what was holding it back from becoming the next Garden State and instead, what Time Out New York dubbed as “what it would look like if a Kubrick imitator directed Garden State.” While I’m not sure I agree with that statement (or even understand what the reviewer was getting at), he goes on to complain that the film over explains things instead of trusting its audience. That’s dead on.
From Alexi Murdoch’s overbearing folk soundtrack to moments where characters the couple meets in their journey have verbal diarrhea (ie., just in case you can’t figure out why your life is better than mine, lemme tell ya); there’s not much left for the viewer to do but casually observe, which makes it almost impossible to connect — even in the more emotional scenes between Burt and Verona. (Not that they’d notice anyway.) But in all seriousness, a love story that makes you feel isolated? It’s not exactly going to change your life.
Away We Go opens in theaters today. Check out the trailer below.