In the mood for a quirky little independent movie as a change of pace from the BIGGER, LOUDER, EXPLODIER SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER EXTRAVAGANZAS that have snarfed up most of the screens at your neighborhood megaplex? Away We Go is a comedy/drama about a young couple trying to decide where to settle when their baby arrives. Burt (John Krasinski from The Office) and Verona (SNL vet Maya Rudolph) are both successful freelancers and can live anywhere they want. But where? They draw up a list of places where they have ties to people and head off for an episodic road trip.
Sam Mendes, director of Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, Road to Perdition and American Beauty, helms the film, and he has apparently decided to lighten up a bit. Good for you, Sam -- I was tired of having to take a Prozac before seeing one of your movies. Husband and wife writer/magazine honchos Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida wrote the script while Vida was pregnant, but they go to great lengths to make it clear that Burt and Verona do not represent them. Duly noted.
Burt and Verona are reasonable people who have lived like college students for years since graduation. Krasinski plays Burt as a genial fellow with a good sense of humor and a healthy backbone behind his easygoing nature. Rudolph's Verona is a bit less carefree -- maybe because she lost her parents a few years ago, maybe because she's lugging around a belly that looks two months farther along than she really is. I'm fond of Krasinski and Rudolph and they make a winning couple.
Since Burt and Verona are so progressively well-balanced, Eggers and Vida surround them with characters that are either quirky or cartoonishly quirky. Any other character that appears normal is soon revealed to be suffering great sadness. You'll have to decide whether or not to let that bug you. I got annoyed a little, but then decided, "Screw it. It's hot outside. I like the cast, the cinematography, the romance and most of the jokes. I'm going to roll with this one." Something else I had to roll with was the soundtrack, which has too many wistful tunes by Scottish singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch (if you want to hear a great achingly-intimate wistful song, download "Ariel Ramirez" by Richard Buckner).
One thing I could not roll with was watching the talented Paul Schneider (Parks and Recreation, Lars and the Real Girl, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), one of my favorite actors, given too little to do as Burt's sad brother. The rest of the cast, by the way, includes Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels (quirky couple), Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan (quirky couple), Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton (the funniest quirky couple), Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey (sad couple) and Carmen Ejogo (neither quirky nor sad -- consider her the exception that proves the rule).
Away We Go is an enjoyable trifle as long as you're willing to meet it halfway. If you're feeling fussy, seek entertainment elsewhere.