Away We Go (R) ***

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

When you’re in love — really in love, not just infatuated or in lust or excited by the rush of a new fling — nothing really matters more than being in the company of the other person. Everything else falls by the wayside. Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), the happily unmarried protagonists of Away We Go, are in their 30s, self employed and living in a ramshackle house with cardboard covering a broken window. The lovers are aware they can do better than this hovel: They just don’t really feel the need. Their lethargy changes when Verona gets pregnant, and she and Burt realize they are going to have to grow up and form a proper home. Away We Go, written by the married Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, is about the road trip Burt and Verona take to visit their friends and relatives and figure out where they’d like to set down roots. But everywhere they go — Phoenix, Madison, Montreal, Miami (for a brief scene on Ocean Drive) — all they find are people whose lives they do not want theirs to resemble.

Away We Go was directed by Sam Mendes, in a complete about-face in style and tone from his previous movie, Revolutionary Road. That film was about a marriage that crumbled from the inside: This one is about two people who draw so much strength and happiness from each other, only the outside world can pose a threat.

Episodic by design, Away We Go is a series of encounters between the protagonists and a gallery of grotesques and loonies, including Allison Janney as Verona’s former boss, a crude, lewd alcoholic oblivious of her monstrosity, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Ellen, a childhood friend of Burt who has taken to parenthood with the rigidity of a military drill instructor.

Some episodes are funnier than others, but they’re all underscored by a pervasive melancholy embodied in the silent looks of fear and horror Burt and Verona often give each other. Krasinski, cranking the likability he displays on TV’s The Office to 11, and Rudolph, displaying dramatic chops that her work on Saturday Night Live never even hinted at, are utterly believable as the perfectly synced couple. Their dynamic balances the movie’s sometimes pessimistic view with hope and heart. Away We Go reminds you that when you’re in love, home is not a place but a state of mind.

Cast: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Messina, Paul Schneider.

Director: Sam Mendes.

Screenwriters: Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida.

Producers: Edward Saxon, John Turtletaub, Peter Saraf.

A Focus Features release. Running time: 97 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


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