A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time.
Burt Farlander and Verona De Tessant are a couple steeped in eccentricity and irregularity but are very much in love. So when they find out that Verona is pregnant they seem to be taking it in their stride. Verona is enjoying pregnancy, Burt is already practicing skill that he believes a good father should have, and they living in the same state as Burt's parents, Jerry and Gloria, so that their prospective daughter can have grandparents. However, things are shaken up when Burt and Verona go to dinner at Jerry and Gloria's house, as Burt's parents reveal a surprising piece of news. They have decided to move to Antwerp in Belguim a month before the baby is due, scuppering Burt and Verona's plans of having their children's grandparents around. Because Verona lost her parents when she was relatively young, she finds this news very hard to take, but the resilient couple quickly find a way to turn it in to a positive. It becomes obvious that this is what the pair needed, as they decide to ... Written by
Well-made, enjoyable, quirky, but not groundbreaking
It's always great to see good directors develop and go in different directions. Just in the past few years, I've seen some of my favourite directors "evolve" and direct works that are quite uncharacteristic of their previously established styles, be it David Fincher with his emotional and romantic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Paul Thomas Anderson with his monumental character study There Will Be Blood. Sam Mendes, one of the most fascinating and talented directors working today, has so far delivered four very precise, calculated, ambitious and large-scale films, which is why it was interesting to discover that he of all directors was behind a quirky, lax, unhinged indie dramedy.
Actually, after watching the film, Mendes' style is quite noticeable. Although it's a very loose and small-scale human comedy, the film's aesthetic is still very formal, featuring symmetrical compositions and fluid camera movements. The lighting is top notch and in general it's an indie film that has a very high-quality look, clearly Mendes' stamp. Mendes is a very interesting director in that sense, because despite his being one of the most visually striking and prominent directors working today, with his last four films being among the most gorgeous-looking films in recent memory, his origins are on the stage, and that background is actually very prominent in this film.
Plot-wise, this film tells a story that we have all seen before the road trip movie. Specifically, it's a film about unconfident people going out on the road in order to discover themselves. And yet, screenwriters (and novelists) Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida manage to craft unique and identifiable characters and through their journey create what is essentially a parable about relationships and self-discovery. The main couple is expertly played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, who really play against type: Krasinski is known as the quiet and awkward Jim on The Office while in this film he is very confident, outgoing and funny; Rudolph, on the other hand, is known for her outrageous roles on Saturday Night Live while in this film she plays a more mellow and peaceful character. The story establishes a series of supporting characters who are also expertly played by a very impressive supporting cast; Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney particularly stand out as friends of Krasinski and Rudolph, respectively, who provide very opposite views about life and long-term relationships.
Ultimately, this is a fun, well-made, enjoyable, quirky little indie film; it's funny and charming and light-hearted while also delivering an interesting and thought-provoking parable about marriage, long-term relationships, life and the various approaches couples have to all those things. That said, I think that the film might even be too quirky and precious for its own good; these elements that often lead to such fantastic films as Little Miss Sunshine or Juno to get derided by the cynics don't often bother me, but in this film, I think that it's preciousness kind of takes away from the audience's connection with the characters. I can't quite put my finger on it, but all I know is that while the film is good, I felt a much stronger connection with the characters in another indie film from this year, (500) Days of Summer.
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