Roaming for Verona
"Away We Go" is a clever movie because it breaches the gap between off-beat and mainstream and does so brilliantly. It is off-beat because we have this soul searching road trip of a couple expecting their first child and learning through all the quirky friends they meet what being parents means. It has that low brow styling where nothing is obviously set up to make us laugh yet it still does and it does so because we have mainstream humour but mainstream humour delivered in a low brow style. To sort of explain there is a scene where Burt having gone down on Verona mentions she tastes different, it is a line which would not have been out of place in say "The 40 Year Old Virgin" but because the delivery is done in a matter of fact way it doesn't feel forced.
Couple Burt (John Krasinski - Dreamgirls) and Verona (Maya Rudolph - 50 First Dates) not only discover that they are expecting their first child but also get a shock when his parents who live nearby announce they are selling up and moving to Belgium. It throws their plans into disarray to be near family but gives them an opportunity to go travelling and find somewhere else to live where they can hopefully find friends to help make the family unit. But their journey which takes them from Phoenix to Miami leads to them realising many things about parenthood and family life.
"Away We Go" is technically a road trip movie, but one which is not about the humour of a car journey but the discoveries which Burt and Verona make as they visit various friends around the country. And as such the basic storyline is simple as this journey where they encounter bad parents, hippy parents and those who hide inner pain help them realise things about themselves as a couple and what they don't want to be when they become parents. It means we have this depth as we have a look at various aspects of the family unit which whilst also making a statement about family life is amusing.
It is the humour of "Away We Go" where it is clever because the style and tone of the movie is very low key independent but the jokes are mainstream. I've already mentioned the vaginal flavour scene but there are plenty more from Burt and Verona walking in and finding their old friend LN breastfeeding her young children, not babies, to comments about finding Verona's vagina even if she is fat. All these jokes would not be out of place in a comedy which goes for big laughs like "Knocked Up" and "The 40 Year Old Virgin" but because every joke is part of a bigger scene rather than a forced line it makes it feel so different. Trust me you will still be laughing, often in shock from the matter of fact way these jokes are delivered but you will also appreciate that they are part of a scene rather than thrown in because a writer wanting to deliver a joke whether it fitted or not.
Part of the reason why these jokes works is thanks to John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph who make for a believable couple, quirky but also down to earth. Because they seem down to earth that all those they meet from Maggie Gyllenhaal as LN to Catherine O'Hara as Burt's inappropriate mother seem even quirkier. Yet whilst all these people are quirky they also have this matter of fact, low key delivery so a joke will be fed to us but because there is no reaction, no raising of the voice it feels normal, part of the way they are.
What this all boils down to is that "Away We Go" is a wonderful movie from director Sam Mendes which treads a middle ground between being quirky and being mainstream. And it works because it is full of fun but also depth which means you will be laughing just as much as you will be thinking.