Directed by: Sam Mendes
Premise: A couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) expecting a child go on a trip around the country looking for a place to settle down and along the way they meet up with family, friends, and former coworkers who have children of their own.
What Works: Away We Go is about the search for a home and the anxieties of first time parents. The main strength of the film is found in its two lead performers. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph create a credible couple that is a great deal of fun to watch. Krasinski’s character is a dreamer and an idealist while Rudolph has the straight role as the practical and logical thinker. Krasinski delivers a lot of the laughs in his quirky performance and Rudolph is a great counterpoint in her deadpan responses. The screenplay gets a lot out of their odd couple relationship and the film seesaws very elegantly between high comedy and scenes of pensive revelation underlined by a sincere sweetness that never gets too schmaltzy. As the couple meets all sorts of different parents and parenting styles they are gradually faced with the realization that what they are searching for is not so much a perfect location as it is a perfect family, but of course the kind of perfection they are seeking is nowhere to be found and the films leaves the couple and the audience on a hopeful note of revelation and self discovery.
What Doesn’t: The only negative attribute about Away We Go, inherent to its road trip structure, is a tendency to be very episodic. The film shifts its characters around the country in their search for a place of their own and although it moves very organically, the film does suffer just a bit from the lack of a more definitive overarching goal.
DVD extras: Featurette, commentary track.
Bottom Line: Away We Go is among the best films Sam Mendes has directed. It is funny and sweet but the film is also substantive in its characters and themes and has a climax that exposes the cultural pursuit of perfection as a mirage.
Episode: #269 (December 20, 2009)