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"Away We Go"

Directed by Sam Mendes.
Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.
Starring Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  7/4/09


Sam Mendes made "American Beauty" and then "Road to Perdition"...even with the slight stumble "Jarhead", he came back strong with the energetic "Revolutionary Road" but this is the first time he's made a comedy-drama.  If "Away We Go" is any indication, Mendes can do just about anything with a great script and strong acting, and he gets that in spades with this new film.

"Away We Go" follows a couple named Bart (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) as they try to find a new home where they can have their soon-to-be-born child and start a new life together.  Their travels take them from Denver to Arizona to Montreal to Miami as they meet with family, friends and old co-workers to determine where they want to move...all the while learning more about themselves, their fears about becoming parents, and figuring out what makes happy couples stay together.

Although you can't tell at times, the wild and wacky people that Verona and Bart see along the way are strong characters but it helps that the lead couple is also very, very interesting.  Sometimes, these types of movies turn into how the lead couple has no personality but everyone else around them does...and, at the end, the lead couple figures out who they REALLY are ("Four Christmases" has this problem).  But, in "Away We Go", there are many scenes where Bart and Verona ask a lot of good questions about where their lives are going...sprinkled with strong chemistry and some good laughs to keep the momentum going.  AND we get the aforementioned wacky characters, like Allison Janney as a profane, dissatisfied former co-worker of Verona's, or Maggie Gyllenhaal as a hippie-ish professor living in Madison.

But, what really made "Away We Go" great was its finding a way to show us a general stereotype of each kind of family--the new-age thinking, the unhappy parents with out-of-shape kids, the single parent, the adoptive parents who can't conceive--we get a story that isn't preachy but does attempt to educate us on thinking about each family type's perspective.  And, Rudolph and Krasinski are so good, and generally quite genuine...I kept waiting for one of them to just, I don't know, be something familiar, but then they weren't, and then someone drops an f-bomb, I laughed and the story kept rolling along.

For the type of movie that it is, "Away We Go" is nearly perfect.  Anyone who tells me they didn't like this movie will have to be shot.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 07/04/09