I’ve been working on this blog post since October 2010. For crying in a bucket, it is time I get it OUT!
Away We Go is the most hilarious birthy movie I’ve ever seen. And there’s no actual birth in the movie! It’s star-studded and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why this Sam Mendes movie become an enormous hit. Too subtle? Nahhh… not subtle at all!
Beginning the introductions into the quirky lives of Burt (John Krasinsky) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are Burt’s parents, Jerry (Jeff Daniels) and Gloria (Catherine O’Hara). The elder Farlanders abdicate their grandparenthood for a two-year stint in Belgium, leaving right before the baby’s birth. During a family dinner, we get a lovely glimpse into where their son learned to be verbally effusive and picked up his sharp wit.
Because Burt’s parents are leaving the country, the couple feels “untethered” and begin a search for a home by visiting different cities and a wide variety of friends and family along the way. Of course, they have no idea where the trip will really take them and we are so lucky to go along for the ride.
When you think no one could possibly top Burt’s parents, along comes Allison Janney as Lily. Her dead-pan husband Lowell (Jim Gaffigan) is a great straight man for Lily’s insanity. Lily gives one of the most accurate depictions of an upbeat, but terrible mother I’ve ever seen. And how (why?!) do I know women like her? Mean-spirited, mostly to her kids, you can see the chasm of her horrid self-esteem masked by laughter and obnoxiousness. I about spewed water out my nose when she described what her breasts looked like after breastfeeding. Poor Burt, attached to big breasts, was pretty horrified to hear Lily’s caricaturistic depiction, saying, “They look like an old man’s nutsack. They even grow hair on them! A hairy old man’s nutsack.”
While waiting for Verona’s sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo), Burt and Verona watch as a little boy, maybe five years old? is tested by his mother (who they call “Performance Mom” in the script!) who asks him to name this and that object. I’ve always chuckled about parents that did that, wondering if I did the same thing when the kids were his age.
It is in the interactions with Grace that we’re finally able to see some of Verona’s tough exterior melt away.
For the Natural Birth crowd, it is when Burt and Verona head to Madison to see a family friend, LN Fisher-Herrin (Maggie Gyllenhall), that we’re able to recognize the “Natural Birth Nazi” the non-crunchy crowd often sees. I’ve heard others say they didn’t know why LN and her husband Roderick (Josh Hamilton) were in the movie at all… that they identified quite closely with their style of parenting; “Continuum… practicing the 3 S’s… no sugar, no strollers and no separation.” LN gives one of the best NBA lines ever, talking about why she hates strollers (which Verona and Burt bought for her because they thought she was bereft without one): “Verona, I love my babies. Why would I want to push them away from me?” I don’t want to give away too much of this really, really amusing (in a knowing way!) segment. Just know you’ll probably find yourself laughing and nodding all at the same time. Caricature, people… caricatures.
The pinnacle of the movie comes with our crunchy sister LN, then the movie slides downward in mood as the frenetic pace of the beginning saunters gently towards the end.
In Montreal, we meet Munch (Melanie Lynskey) and Tom (Chris Messina), a “normal” family filled with adopted children, the couple offering a glimpse into yet another facet of parenthood.
Finally, in Miami, Burt’s brother Courtney (Paul Schneider) and his daughter show Burt and Verona the potential for one type of tragedy in being parents.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, the wandering couple finally find their home where none of these friends or family even live; they’ve found their own place, really just taking a roundabout trip to get there all along. Such a lovely ending!
Away We Go is on Netflix and running on the Pay Channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz) right now… I do hope you’ll make time to see it this weekend. It’s a movie that’ll stick with you for a long time.