Away We Go

Away We Go


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If you ever wondered what would happen if Scooby Doo's Shaggy grew up and got married - this is probably it. John Krasinski is Shaggy-alike Burt, in a steady relationship with the love of his life Verona (Maya Rudolph) and, although the pair of them are in their thirties there is more than a whiff of arrested development, especially where he is concerned. In a sexual method of diagnosis that brings a new definition to the word 'unusual' they find out Verona is pregnant but a visit to tell Burt's mum (Catherine O'Hara) and dad (Jeff Daniels) brings news that leads them to question why they are staying in Colorado and, more importantly, whether they are really ready for parenthood.

They embark on a roadtrip to visit friends and family in the hope of finding somewhere to nest permanently. Sadly, despite a decent set-up for these out and out nice guys, plus very believable chemistry between the two leads, once they hit the road the script - written by husband and wife Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida - goes away with the pixies.

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Their first stop is Phoenix, where they hook up with Verona's ex-work colleague Lily (Allison Janney) and her hubbie Lowell (Jim Gaffigan). Lily has morphed into an overbearing dragon on-the-verge of seemingly everything from a nervous breakdown to alcoholism and thinks nothing of screaming intimate details of the state of her boobs ("they're like an old man's nut sack") across the crowd at a dog track.

Although pushing their characters to the edge of the surreal Janney and Gaffigan just about keep Lily and Lowell in the realm of the 'possible', while a sideways trip to Tuscon to see Verona's sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo, who though a fine actor, could barely look less like a blood relative) also brings some emotional heart to the film. But once they head to Wisconsin to visit an old pal of Burt's - Maggie Gyllenhaall shovelling the dirt into 'earth mother' like there's no tomorrow - believability is sacrificed on the altar of pantomime. Gyllenhaal's character, LN - who we meet breastfeeding both a baby and what appears to be a five-year-old simultaneously - although funny to a point, is such an extreme that it rocks the film. How can we believe in the lovely central pairing of Rudolph and Krasinski when many of their friends feel like leftovers from comedy sketches rather than living, breathing souls?

The film also suffers from problems of balance. Frontloaded with humour, there is not enough time spent early on developing the emotional underpinnings it will later come to rely on while the emotion, in turn, squeezes out the comedy from the film's final third. Additionally, for a British audience, some of the Americana overwhelms. There is a (far too prolonged) sequence referring to US DJ Casey Kasem, which will pass over most people's heads, while a joke about LN's name proves utterly impenetrable.

This is by no means a bad movie but it is a frustrating one, since if the same amount of attention had been paid to the subsidiary characters as is lavished on Verona and Burt it could easily have been immeasurably more entertaining.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2009
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Away We Go packshot
Indie comedy about a couple who go on a road trip to help them decide where is best to bring up baby.
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Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida

Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Krasinski, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Paul Schneider, Catherine O'Hara, Maya Rudolph, Chris Messina, Jim Gaffigan, Josh Hamilton, Shirley Rumierk, Carmen Ejogo, Steve Antonucci, Carrie Clifford

Year: 2009

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK


EIFF 2009

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