Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski play Verona and Burt, a unmarried 30-something couple who fit together like a pair of old shoes. They are obviously on the long-term path in anyone’s eyes, with a baby on the way, and a cozy well-settled home somewhere in the backroads of Colorado. But they wonder if they’ve missed something on the way, marriage notwithstanding. Are they fuck-ups, they wonder? Are they doing this right? Do their friends and family know something that they don’t? Because of their remoteness they consider moving for the baby’s sake. Maybe they should live near people they know… but where? Thusly begins and air-and-road trip as Verona and Burt hop around the continent visiting folks who may show them how not to be fuck-ups.
They hop from places like Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and Montreal, visiting folks, seeing if they feel the spark and draw of their new “home”. For the most part, these parts play like broad comedy, especially Allison Janney playing Verona’s hilarious and crazy ex-boss who hates her husband and kids (yay, “home”), and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton as a couple of new age hippies with their own extreme ideas of what is appropriate in child-rearing. Comedy is all fun and good, but the vignette that was most effective is where Verona and Burt visit college friends (Melanie Lynskey and Chris Messina) who now have a lovely rainbow coalition of adopted kids (that aren’t terrible) and a loving relationship. But they, too, have sadness, and their revelation is moving, heartbreaking, and candidly real in the midst of all their happiness.
But as funny as many of those other scenes are, Away We Go works best when focusing on Verona and Burt and the quiet drama. John Krasinski has a floppy charm about him, with his dorky glasses, shaggy hair, beard, and mis-matching plaids. But it is Maya Rudolph that surprises with her sullen depth, sadness and strength. Not knowing her from her years-long stint on Saturday Night Live, I’ll take everyone’s word for it that she is an unexpected revelation as a dramatic actress.
I was just glad to see a central female character that was not stereotypical (thanks to novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida’s screenplay), that was real in her doubts and her concerns about her choices in life. Usually men get the “did I make the right choices” roles, so it was refreshing to see a female character wondering what road she was supposed to take in life, and if she chose the wrong one. Regardless out outward appearance of success in home and family, everyone really has an equal opportunity to be a fuck-up, but sometimes, you know, it is okay to acknowledge it.