There’s something to be said for the perfect road trip. Dashing away to “find yourself” in the grand tradition of Kerouac is an oft-invoked cinematic theme. It provides the luxury of Otherness that throws life’s banality into sharp relief.
In Away We Go, the joint effort of writers and real-life-couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this conceit underpins the machinations of Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), a pair of thirtysomethings expecting their first child. Intent on shedding their self-proclaimed status as “fuck-ups,” they embark on a cross-country trip to see where they truly belong.
From the onset, it’s clear that Burt and Verona are the foil to every other character’s insanity. They glide, unscathed, through the treacherous territory of Truly Horrible Parents. While the supporting cast is often terrific, notably in the form of Burt’s father (Jeff Daniels) and cousin (Maggie Gyllenhaal), what’s meant to be an exploration of other people’s neuroses morphs into self-righteous judgment. The audience can’t help but reject the over-the-top personalities, which forces us to champion the couple at all times. It’s an imposition, and a tiresome one.
The film’s indie-ness is refreshing but is obscured by colloquial dialogue, a surprising and unfortunate aspect, given Mr. Eggers’ resume. The injection of music, which should provide a pensive backdrop, instead fills up silences engendered by the weak script. While artist Alexi Murdoch is undoubtedly talented, he is allotted too much time in a film that should have utilized more varied selections. A scene in which Verona stops driving, exits the car, and stands aloof while Murdoch’s song blasts seems especially contrived.
That is not to say the film is without merit. It grapples with issues of loneliness not usually seen in depictions of this age group, and is thought-provoking in its examination of living for someone else. That said, Away We Go stomps where it should tread, and ultimately makes us wish we, too, were farther away.