Sam Mendes shot the comedy Away We Go on the hoof while still in post-production on his last Oscar-bait movie, Revolutionary Road. Unsurprisingly, it’s an altogether lighter, looser and more freewheeling film than its dour predecessor – even if it does share a family resemblance.
Like Revolutionary Road, Away We Go deals with a young couple taking stock of their lives and measuring themselves against their contemporaries. Burt (played by John Krasinski from the US version of The Office) and Verona (comedian Maya Rudolph) are a long-time couple now in their thirties but still living a shambling, studenty kind of life. Expecting their first child, they decide to visit friends and family in a quest to find the best place to raise their baby.
To this end, they criss-cross North America, from Colorado to Phoenix, Tucson to Wisconsin, Montreal to Miami. Everywhere they go, however, the models of parenting they come across – including Verona’s former boss, neurotic blabbermouth Lily (Allison Janney) and Burt’s New Agey childhood friend Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) – are uniformly ghastly.
Burt and Verona are amiable enough travelling companions and their trip does throw up some moderately amusing situations, but the film’s episodic structure does get a bit wearying. Most tiresome of all, though, is the film’s insistence on underscoring the contrast between laid-back, charming Burt and Verona and the parade of freaks they encounter.
We’re supposed to identify with the pair, of course, but given that the film has been scripted by a real-life married couple – Dave Eggers (author of the bestselling misery memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and fellow writer Vendela Vida – the whole enterprise has more than a whiff of smugness.
On general release from 18th September.