' ' Cinema Romantico: Away We Go

Monday, June 22, 2009

Away We Go

Near the beginning of the latest feature from Mr. Kate Winslet (or, as he is known in all circles except this blog, Sam Mendes) there is an exchange between our two main characters, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), where she wonders if they are screw-ups (though the term she actually uses a bit more, shall we say, un-PC) and he says, no, we're not screw-ups and she waits a beat and replies "We have a cardboard window."

I quite liked this dialogue. This film has some important questions to ask. Verona is pregnant with Burt's baby, though she will "never" marry him, and yet they are two people who don't even "have the basic stuff figured out." Due to their notable absence of wealth they are set to lean on Burt's flighty parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara) when the baby arrives except his parents announce they are set to take flight two months before the baby arrives. Seeing as how they moved close to Burt's parents solely for that reason they decide to criss-cross the country, visiting friends and relatives, in an effort to find a new home.

It becomes a road movie with airplanes, venturing to Phoenix and then to Madison and then to Montreal. This allows for the introduction for a trio of wacky couples and this is where the movie's footing gets mighty suspect. A movie, I believe, needs to decide if it is a comedy with dramatic overtones or a drama with comedic overtones. You can't be both. "Away We Go" dearly wants to be both. Take, for instance, the over the top new age couple Burt and Verona meet in Madison. Babies can't have strollers and the whole family has to sleep in the same bed and we sit at the dining room table with one leg up on the chair. I found these passages unbearable. I wish to make it clear, however, that I don't fault the performances of Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton as these absurd parents. They do exactly what the screenplay asks of them. I just wish the screenplay had not asked them to do this. If it's a straight comedy then it's all well and good. But if the movie wants to be taken seriously, and it does, then this is all just ridiculous.

This movie has been compared to "Juno" and just let me say this - if I had a glass of whiskey for every time someone bitched about the Rainn Wilson character in "Juno" then I would be dead from liver cancer. But 1.) I think someone who is probably pulling down constant double shifts at a convenience store talking and acting like Wilson does is more believable than Gyllenhaal and Hamilton's spaciness and 2.) "Juno" is a comedy with dramatic overtones. Not both. There you go.

My immense dislike for this film does not make me happy and, in fact, there were things about it I enjoyed. The visual scheme Mr. Kate Winslet employs of almost always having each of the five prominent couples in two shots, as if to reinforce the notion that these husbands and wives, whether they like each other or not, are in it together come hell or high water, is rather nice. I thought Burt and Verona were two interesting people with more of a story to tell. I wish they had told it.

The screenplay is by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. They are both talented writers but this is their first screenplay and a screenplay is a whole different ballgame. Maybe they will do better next time. I sincerely hope they do.

Burt and Verona are not screw-ups. This is what the movie believes and it is what I believe, too. But by presenting us this assembly line of inane supporting characters Burt and Verona reach this conclusion by seeing all of them and knowing, "They are screw-ups. We are not." They should have simply learned, "We are not screw-ups." There's a big difference.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

I hate this ongoing trend that equates character quirkiness with character development. A character putting one foot up at the dinner table does not mean that the character has depth. It's the indie-movie equivalent of giving action movie sideliners one trait each (the Hispanic guy, the mean guy, the blowhard coward, the black guy). "Oh, he's not just the lovelorn adolescent, he's the lovelorn adolescent who makes mix tapes of 70's pop ballads. See, he's totally deep."