'Away' works on every level

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

E veryone likes to say that your late 20s is too early to have a "mid-life crisis." Okay, fine. You don't have to call it that if you don't want to, but as I enter that age bracket - and all of my friends do as well - I've found it to be a pretty dramatic time. By the time you are able to see 30 on the not-so-distant horizon, it feels like you should have life pretty well figured out.

Courtesy Of Focus Features
Courtesy Of Focus Features

Unless you're naïve, though, you don't! Sure, it becomes common to attend your buddies' weddings. Maybe you start to consider marriage yourself. Some friends are having babies, buying houses and doing all the other things that real grownups do.

It's insane.

Especially the having babies part. That is what "Away We Go" tackles. What happens when a happy couple in their late 20s or early 30s suddenly has to prepare for a baby? What do they see when they are forced to take stock of their lives and their relationship?

Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are in their early 30s. They live a meager lifestyle and seem generally content; things change dramatically when Verona gets pregnant. At first they're not all that freaked out, knowing they have Burt's parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara) to lean heavily on for support. When the grandparents to-be, though, inform Burt and Verona they're moving to Europe for two years... time to freak out.

They make the decision to go on a recruiting trip of sorts, except instead of choosing which college to attend, they're choosing which city to move to and start their new life. It is a bit of a cheap trick that writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida use to give themselves excuses to introduce various colorful characters, but what better way to infuse a script with a wide variety of interesting folk than a road trip? So, away they go. To Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, Miami and eventually, Home.

Sam Mendes' movie works on every level. Burt and Verona are believable, thanks in no small part to Krasinski and Rudolph. Their relationship and their situation is interesting and - especially if you're between 25 and 35 I suspect - so easy to relate to it is almost as if you're getting a sneak preview of what life could be like in the near future. The dialogue is fantastic and the laughs are frequent. In fact, I dare you not to laugh when Burt and Verona get to Phoenix and meet up with Lily (Allison Janney) and Lowell (Jim Gaffigan). My man-crush on Gaffigan aside, Janney is a riot for all of the ten or fifteen minutes she's around. Lily and Lowell are hilarious; they're also the main reason Burt and Verona have no desire to stay in Phoenix.

In Madison they reconnect with Burt's old friend, LN (just call her "Ellen"), played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. LN and her husband Roderick (Josh Hamilton) are hippie-dippie to the extreme. If you've seen the previews you already know they reject Burt's gift of a stroller because, as LN says, "I love my children! Why would I want to push them away?" They're nuts. One of Krasinski's best moments actually comes when he finally decides he's had enough of the hippie couple's shenanigans.

I could go on and on about the cast of "Away We Go." Each stop along the journey home for Burt and Verona provides memorable characters. All 97 minutes are entertaining.

It also seems meaningful, especially if you're having one of those pre-mid-life crises that we're not allowed to have yet.

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