Away We Go
It seems like every year there's an irreverent, leisurely little picture that sneaks in to pack a little whimsy among the titans of summer.
This year "Away We Go" is that film.
Burt (John Kraskinski, better known as the mischevious Jim from "The Office,"), and Verona (Maya Rudolph of "Saturday Night Live") are two earthy co-habitors who are content in their schlubby lifestyle. When Verona gets pregnant, and Burt's parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) up and move to Belgium, the untethered couple decides to travel around the country (and in some cases out of it) to find a place to raise their child.
They trot around the country, trying out various cities, visiting old friends along the way. Among the highlights are a nutty former co-worker of Vernona's, played by Allison Janney, old college friends in Montreal who have adopted kids but still wanting kids "of their own," and a "cousin" of Burt's (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who breastfeeds both of her kids (though one is at least 6), doesn't believe in strollers or separate rooms for her children.
Along the way they deal with their own misconceptions and ideas of what it's going to be like to be parents, including Burt's insistence on taking up whittling (which he calls cobbling), and Verona's horror not at the fact that she's getting bigger, but that everyone can't seem to stop telling her how huge she is.
The couple, unmarried, finds they've been playing house more than actually living as adults, and the realities they see from their friends, be it middle-age malaise, the disappointment of fertility issues, or spiraling down into nutty psuedo-spirituality scares the hell out of them.
Also, don't miss a schmoozing Burt, talking with a client on the phone, razzing him for being a Pacers fan and saying Mike Dunleavy can't "carry anything but a bucket of water."
Krasinski and Rudolph play off of each other well, and Krasinski, behind a scruffy beard and too-small horn-rimmed glasses, manages to be charming and funny without ever evoking that guy from Dunder Mifflin.
The supporting players, from Janney to Gyllenhaal, and a small role from comedian Jim Gaffigan are terrific, and director Sam Mendes ("American Beuaty") segments the film into almost episodic pieces that could be short films unto themselves that still forms a cohesive whole.
It's a film about grown-ups learning to become adults, and highlights this generation's refusal to be their parents, until they learn that being an adult doesn't mean you have to be stuffy and boring.
"Away We Go" is one of the best films of 2009, and with the recently-announced expansion of the Best Picture category, it's instantly a contender to appear on that list.
Rating: 4 1/2 Yaps out of 5