Monday 14 September 2009

Review: Away we go

Year: 2009
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph

A couple go cross-country to find themselves a perfect place to start the family they will soon have. There's the pitch for Away we go. Simple and effective, but will you watch it? Well it gained mixed reviews and didn't spread to wide release, despite being made by Sam Mendes. It's a shame because I found it a damn sight more interesting than Revolutionary Road. Maybe it's because Rev Road's "look at me!" acting and contrived wish to be important got in the way of the film being watchable (for me anyway).

Away we go is a cheerful departure away from the "grander" movies of Mendes' overture. We've seen his take(s) at the suburban drama, the gangster flick and the war movie, and for the most part (see my above paragraph) the director has brought a interesting curve to those movies. Here he takes on the road movie with Away we go.

Together with married writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida Mendes brings about a humorous journey between two naive and concerned people, who just wish to have their child under the best circumstances they can. The script is witty and the characters have a very down to earth feel to them. It's a shame that many have found the leads as smug and high and mighty over the bizarre "couples" they meet on their odyssey. They're not, they just want to get it right and although there's a few smart alecy comments at times and one huge outburst part way through the film, said outburst brings about one of the best moments of the movie, it's the first (and nearly only) moment of conflict that rubs our couple and the wrong way and it was truly welcomed by me because despite the laughs my mind kept wondering "yes....and ?"

You see, Mendes' film doesn't seem to have much point to it. The film's climax didn't send the shivers down my spine that the rising music and bleary eyed moments wanted me to have. This seem to stem from the fact that the film wishes to be funny more than emotional. In a lesser film the films tender moments (including one of the saddest poledances I'll ever see) would be lost by a weak director. Mendes (a theatre director first) manages to make those scenes linger in my head way after the credits have gone up. It's a shame that they seem to few and far between. I remember the softer moments more than the laughs, however the film is more interested in titters.

But this isn't too much of a bad thing. The humor is more hit than miss and the leads (The U.S Office's John Krasinski and SNL's Maya Rudolph) handle the comedy like good comedic actors should. The leads handle the emotional moments well also with help from a great supporting cast (stand outs being Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney on top form).

The film is a departure from the usual visual look and storytelling from Mendes and he pulls it off with a few minor scrapes. Although not the emotional ride it wishes to believe it is, Away we go should find its audience comfortably on DVD and with the English audience when it's released this Friday.

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