Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movieness

Here's a story of two movies, both quite enjoyable, both rather different from expectations.

Away We Go

Away We Go

The basic story of Away We Go is presented in its trailers - Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) get pregnant, his parents (hers are deceased) bail on them to Belgium, and Burt and Verona set out in an attempt to find out what they're going to do with their lives and where they're going to do it.

What isn't shown in the trailers is the amount of humour, realism, and love in the movie. I'm not going to lie, I was really expecting something along the lines of a self-righteous, desperate search through our cold, desolate world, trying to decide if another child should be brought into this world. Not at all what this movie was.

Casting Krasinski and Rudolph was, frankly, a stroke of genius.1 Krasinski has a very believable air about him, and Rudolph's improv work lends her a similar air. The over-the-top performances are handled by the supporting cast - Katherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels as Burt's parents, and Alison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Josh Hamilton as Verona's and Burt's friends, respectively.

The story is essentially four stories of four (somewhat caricatured) families and relationships (that I think I put in the right order). The movie gives Burt and Verona a glimpse of exactly what they don't want to be or turn into.

Burt's parents are "living their dream" and moving to Belgium for two years, just before the baby is born. To make matters worse, they are selling their house (sprinkled with objets d'arts of varying expense which they don't remember the history or significance of) to a foreign businessman, rather than giving Burt, Verona and their baby somewhere to live. This, essentially, sets the story in motion, as the couple now need to find a place to live, ideally near friends/family.

Lily and Lowell (Janney and Gaffigan) live in Arizona, the couple's first stop. These two are an examination in parents that shouldn't have had kids, or really even be together. They constantly mock their two kids, and, when the kids ignore their taunts, Lily explains that it is because parents' voices are "white noise to [kids]". They also make fun of one another and Burt and Verona, and are generally dislikeable people. What is more dislikeable is the fact that they are the exact people that manage to move up in the world and always seem to come out clean.

LN and Roderick (Gyllenhaal and Hamilton) are next, a pair of extremely spiritual parents that smother their children with love and affection in an attempt to make them feel wanted. The audience is introduced to Gyllenhaal in her office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, breastfeeding her newborn and her 7-year-old son. She invites Burt and Verona over for dinner that night, prompting the couple to buy LN and Roderick a stroller for their newborn, as they don't have one. The gift nearly causes a huge fight, as LN is disgusted by the gesture (why would she want to push her baby away from her). We progress through their house, where we meet Roderick in the family's large, communal bed. There is a short discussion of the benefits of making love in front of their children so as to not hide their affections from them. Dinner finally dissolves into a war of words between Burt and Roderick (Burt asked what Roderick did for a living, an idea Roderick scoffed at), a wild stroller ride for the 7-year-old and Burt and Verona storming out. Oh, and Burt wears genie slippers. They were cute.

Verona's sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo) serves as a natural break in the movie, filling in some back story about Verona's parents, and gives the movie a chance to change tone. This is also the first chance the audience gets to see something that approaches a healthier version of love between the characters.

A trip to Montreal2 to see Burt's college friends Tom and Munch Garnett (Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey) is next. This couple has several adopted children, but none of their own. Although they clearly love all their children, there seems to be a certain melancholy. They give Burt and Verona advice that, really, love is all you need to set a foundation for a family. Unfortunately, their final scene reveals that Munch just had her fifth miscarriage, hence the melancholy.3

The final relationship we see is Burt's brother Courtney (Paul Schneider) in Miami, who's wife has just left him and his young daughter. Courtney fears he will be unable to provide what his daughter needs as she grows up, which Burt takes to heart to the point that he goes through Courtney's wife's address book, calling all of her friends and demanding to know what she was thinking. Verona gets to indulge her mothering side with Courtney's daughter, and ultimately the scenario seems to reinforce Burt and Verona's commitment to one another.

The couple are able, at the end, to make a decision about where they'll put down roots, so, yay, happy ending.

1 - I'm biased about Krasinski, of course
2 - Or something approaching Montreal - everything was in English
3 - This scene was set in a strip club, so maybe it was Montreal

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