Away We Go Review

Away We Go film still

Score

It’s an enjoyable watch, but the more you think about Away We Go’s odd intolerance of other lifestyles, the more offensive it becomes.

The screenwriting debut of literary sensation Dave Eggers and his writer/spouse Vendela Vida, Away We Go was never going to be terrible. In fact, the script is insightful, funny and cleverly structured with several moments of genuine emotion.

Expecting their first child and finding themselves untethered to their current home, Burt and Verona (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) decide to embark on a road trip around North America in search of a way of life that suits them while rejecting alternatives along the way. In other words, it’s a cross-state tour of smugness.

This is a film for us, apparently. We listen to alt. folk, shop organic, over-analyse our interpersonal interactions and wait until our mid-thirties to have babies.

Yet even if you happen to be a member of the demographic being celebrated, the assumption that Burt and Verona’s life choices (and by extension those of the filmmakers) represent the one true path is so infuriatingly arrogant, it sets the whole thing off-balance. If you’ve ever been curious as to why the American Right despises liberals, watch this. You’ll soon understand.

The film asks, ‘Who are the good people?’ But instead of leaving the question open, a resoundingly confident answer always comes back: we are.

As the happy couple continue their journey they encounter various examples of how Not To Be: Burt’s free-spirited, self-involved parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara); a mouthy ex-colleague of Verona’s (Allison Janney on top form) and her depressed husband; and LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a hippyish earth mother and childhood friend of Burt’s. "You’re a terrible person," Burt chides LN, yet all of the excellent supporting cast deliver such perfectly-pitched, hilarious and human performances that you may find yourself rebelliously taking their side.

Some have called this the anti-Revolutionary Road because of its relaxed depiction of a couple in love, and it is probably Sam Mendes’ theatre background that we have to thank for the film’s success at capturing the intimacy of a couple in a real relationship. The mumblecore hit Nights and Weekends did it better, but Away We Go is still admirably far from rom-com cliché.

Yet the involvement of Mendes also adds an incongruous production-line sheen to a film that is so obviously desperate to be original. This is indie-flavoured filmmaking, sure, but it’s not made from 100 per cent pure ingredients. Away We Go is the cinematic equivalent of Innocent smoothies: it appears to talk like ‘us’, while all the time reducing us to another consumer demographic.

Anticipation

Whatever your feelings about Mendes, the screenwriting debut of Dave Eggers was always going to be an event.

3

Enjoyment

Laugh-out-loud moments and touching scenes, but that undercurrent of smugness is a constant niggling irritant.

3

In Retrospect

It’s an enjoyable watch, but the more you think about Away We Go’s odd intolerance of other lifestyles, the more offensive it becomes.

3
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View 2 comments

zone6

4 years ago
A worth review, but I failed to see quite so much smugness, rather a journey from being self diagnosed 'fuck ups' to the acceptance of themselves and each other... in a middle class smug way!

Ralph

3 years ago
Agree with zone6 - the smugness you detect is nowehere near as overbearing as you're suggesting here.

Watch it again when you're in a better mood.
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