The summer is packed with popcorn movies filled with explosions, huge special effects, and so-so acting. But stuck in there are some smaller movies to give you a break from the flash and bang of the big boys. Away We Go is one of those small movies. And even though I'm still saying Star Trek has been the best summer movie (closely followed by The Hangover), Away We Go is not to be missed.
It's beautiful, thoughtful, funny, and quite touching. All those naysayers out there who didn't like it obviously didn't get the memo about the quirky indie road movie. Yes, just like with romantic comedies, it follows a pattern--a couple goes on a trip and meet strange wacky people along the way. After the trip, they have a profound moment and are happier and better for the experience. What's important about a movie like this are the characters. You want to believe them and believe in them. John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph, as Burt and Verona, are like real people that you want to have coffee with and offer a shoulder to cry on.
Burt and Verona are an expectant couple in search of a new place to put down roots and raise their daughter. In trying places close to family or friends, they make new connections to one another, find out new and interesting things about the people they know, and, of course, find out more about each other.
Like all road movies, the couple has run-ins with the weird and weirder. The best encounter is with Maggie Gyllenhaal's LN (yeah, it "Ellen"). The woman is a natural mom who doesn't believe in secrets or strollers. She's crazy and scary and so hilarious, I think I cried a little bit.
The most heartbreaking encounter is with Munch and Tom Garnett (Melanie Lynskey and Chris Messina), college friends of Burt and Verona. I won't reveal why it's so heartbreaking, but you'll probably put two and two together as the sequence unfolds. Have you ever had a moment in a movie where you've been so involved that you feel like your best friend just went through something horrible? Well, I had that moment in this movie...in that scene. It felt like someone stuck a knife in my gut and just twisted it. I know that sounds awful, but that's how great the characters are. They are real people on that screen, and I felt for them whole-heartedly.
Director Sam Mendes has a true knack for getting exceptional performances out of people.
John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph are both excellent. I didn't see a glimmer of "Jim" from The Office or any of Rudolph's wacky SNL characters. They have great chemistry, and I found myself smiling with them throughout the movie.
This is not by any means a big budget must-see-in-theatres movie. But I always urge everyone to see the small films in theatres. It's always good to show your support to the quiet ones as well as the big explosion big guys who reign supreme this time of year.