Review: 'Away We Go'
In this neohippie movie, a young couple travel the country in search of a new home to start their family.
(Page 2 of 2)
In Tucson, the couple meet up briefly with Verona's remarkably sane sister (Carmen Ejogo) – how did Tuscon escape the scourge? – before moving on to Madison, Wis. Burt's childhood friend Ellen (a pitch-perfect Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a Women's Studies professor who now calls herself LN; her common-law husband Roderick (Josh Hamilton), a liberated guy, loves male sea horses because they carry babies in their brood pouches. LN and Roderick allow their little son to share their bed. Did I say "Away We Go" is a neohippie movie? It is, but of a special sort. The filmmakers serve up a poisonous portrait of these superannuated hippies in order to establish Burt and Verona as the real deal.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Montreal segment, where Burt and Verona indulge in melancholy good times with a married pair of former college classmates (well played by Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey), and their rainbow coalition of adopted kids, appears to be in the movie for its own sweet sake. That's why I liked it. (I also like the fact that nothing in the movie is made of Burt and Verona's mixed-race partnership.) I realize Mendes probably intended the Montreal sequence as a cautionary tale for his two parents-to-be, but that's not how it comes across. It's too full of the juices of real life for that.
In the end, "Away We Go" is highly sentimental (as hippie movies invariably are). It's about finding a place to belong in a world that doesn't make it easy, and it's also about the almost hallucinatory anxiety of becoming a parent. Good subjects, weak payoff.
The film's one extraordinary aspect, which makes it well worth seeing despite its carefully coiffed shagginess, is Maya Rudolph's performance. For those who only know her from her comic sketches on "Saturday Night Live," her work here will come as a revelation (although her brief but marvelous work in Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion," where she really was pregnant, should have been a tip-off). She has an emotional honesty here that most performers never achieve in a lifetime. She's a major actress. Now she needs a major movie. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and some sexual content.)