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Away We Go

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Anne Thompson:

It's easier to recognize a smart-house tweener that isn't going to do any business. Focus Features' Away We Go, which has all the indie cred bonafides in the world, from Dave Eggers and Sam Mendes to TV comedy stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph and movie actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, just doesn't cut it. Mainly the two rom-com leads are not interesting enough, forming a warm mushy bowl of boredom in the middle of the film. We know they love each other. So?

Secondly, the film is a road movie, always a risky narrative structure (see: My Blueberry Nights, also with a non-pro, Norah Jones, at its center). Third, beware of smart sophisticated filmmakers who are making fun of US for being one or more of the following: idiotic, alcoholic, leftie, bourgeois, self-involved, or lousy parents. The movie might as well be called BOOBS ARE US. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows one couple saying to some pals, "Did you see Honky Tonk Freeway? It ruined our August." That ill-fated 1981 John Schlesinger comedy also looked down on ordinary American folks who weren't as cool as the filmmakers.

Sounds like another About Schmidt in the making. David Hudson rounds up more reviews.

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Sounds like another About Schmidt in the making.

Really? I wasn't planning on seeing Away We Go, but afterthat comparison, I'm thinking I might like it! ;)

Edited by Christian

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'Away We Go' snug in its smug world

I would like to propose an alternate millionth word, one that sprang to mind as I attempted to pinpoint the reasons for my extremely adverse reaction to a new film last weekend:

smuggie (smug e) n. An individual endowed with an unwarranted sense of superiority over others; a person so sure of cultivated convictions that no doubt or criticism is countenanced; a complacent, self-satisfied twat. . . .

IT ALWAYS PERPLEXES me when talented artists create fictional versions of themselves but strip the characters of their own creative passion and intellectual distinction in the process, thus ripping out their essence. Certainly this is the case with what screenwriters Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida do in "Away We Go." . . .

It's not that the characters are self-conscious smuggies, but that the writers and filmmakers are by default; they intend for the supporting characters to be uniformly blind to their own deficiencies but only implicitly insist that the leads are superior to everyone else by virtue of their emotional in-touchness. They never accept that Burt and Verona are, in their own way, just as clueless as everyone they've encountered; the leads just haven't bought into life solutions that make them feel they've found an answer.

It was instructive to catch "Away We Go" on the same day I saw "The Hangover." Both are portraits of seriously stunted growth, of people who have resisted growing up. In this case, the gross, commercially intended movie has it all over the refined art film. . . .

Todd McCarthy, Variety, June 11

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Saw this today and liked it quite a bit. It is very much a wisdom film in the style of "no, it's not this; no, it's not this; no, it's not this." In the end, like Ecclesiastes, it is a matter of learning how to live your life always in white, let there always be oil for your head. Happiness is not something to be achieved in any particular way, but the attitude by which you live the life you find.

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Crow   

I thought the first half of the film kind of fit the "smug" descriptions described in the reviews linked to on this thread. It seemed like another indie that revelled in the quirkiness of people for its own sake. But then the film discovered a sense of heart in the second half, and found a compassionate view of loss and recovery. The final scene was quite touching.

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The A&F crowd has been kinder to this film than several other critics, who have placed it among among the year's worst films.

I saw the film several weeks ago and didn't want to start an argument here, but that linked item reminded me of how much I loathed this film. We used to hear, in the 1980s, about how "teen movies" and kids' films catered to their target audience by making the adult characters look like idiots. At the time, I was a teen and didn't much care about that criticism, which, of course, makes sense in retrospect (those teen comedies were generally pretty bad, with a few exceptions).

This film takes that model, but its protagonists are grown-ups, adults, who still view their parents as cray-zee. I mean, how dare they decide to move away from their forthcoming grandchild! Can you imagine such unfeeling, unthinking individuals?? We're all supposed to be clearly on the side of the younger couple; those parents are so cooky!

And that characterization is part of the film's first 10 minutes, setting a self-righteous tone for everything that's to come. I could barely stomach it.

Hated it.

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M. Leary   

We could not figure how how, if they are so poor that their house has no heat and basic essentials, could they afford this month long jaunt from airport to airport.

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Christian wrote:

: This film takes that model, but its protagonists are grown-ups, adults, who still view their parents as cray-zee. I mean, how dare they decide to move away from their forthcoming grandchild! Can you imagine such unfeeling, unthinking individuals?? We're all supposed to be clearly on the side of the younger couple; those parents are so cooky!

Um, well, as one who keeps proximity-to-the-grandparents in mind when moving from place to place (we've done it once since the twins were born, and we'll almost certainly have to do it again within a couple years), I can't say I'm unsympathetic to the protagonists on this point.

: And that characterization is part of the film's first 10 minutes, setting a self-righteous tone for everything that's to come. I could barely stomach it.

: Hated it.

I heard similar reactions when the film came out theatrically, but when I finally got around to watching it on DVD (on my laptop, while working on other stuff, so I wasn't paying full attention I guess), I didn't find the tone anywhere near as annoying as I'd been led to expect it would be. The one possible exception was the treatment of the Maggie Gyllenhaal character, who's portrayed as some sort of New Agey flake -- but the only detail that stands out there is her line about having a doula at the birth of her child, and the reason it stood out is because my wife had a doula at the births of our own children, and I wondered if doulas were supposed to be a Hollywood shorthand for flakiness just like parents who home-school is a Hollywood shorthand for judgmentalism, etc.

MLeary wrote:

: We could not figure how how, if they are so poor that their house has no heat and basic essentials, could they afford this month long jaunt from airport to airport.

Brilliant point!

Maybe, when George Clooney gave all those air miles to Melanie Lynskey in Up in the Air, she transferred some of them over to these friends of hers. Lynskey does appear in this film, after all. :) (And I found her segment in the film quite moving, actually. Anything but smug or condescending. But again, I might not have been watching the film as closely as I should have been.)

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Thom   

We saw this a couple months ago and I am torn about this movie. I really liked a lot of the dialog and characters. It is a coming-of-age story via the prolonged stage of adolescence in America today. Overall, I found it an excellent commentary on this postmodern transition of life. Burt and Verona do not want to be defined by the "traditional" expectations and roles of society yet they find it necessary for Burt's parents to maintain those roles. They are comforted by the thought. It shows an interesting tie to traditionalism, in a contemporary modernist way. Burt's parents interestingly enough have no desire to be tied down to the traditional grandparent role.

The ending is what seemed to kill it for me. Although, if I try to look at it from a different perspective I can see the flow but it seemed to kill the strength of the film

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Persona   

<b>smuggie (smug e)</b> <i>n.</i> An individual endowed with an unwarranted sense of superiority over others; a person so sure of cultivated convictions that no doubt or criticism is countenanced; a complacent, self-satisfied twat. . . .

I like this a lot. It is a perfect description of the dad in The Squid and the Whale and the doctor in Running With Scissors. Need to remember this one.

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My feelings are very mixed about AWAY WE GO, but I'll definitely take it over Mendes' AMERICAN BEAUTY or JARHEAD. It's refreshing to see Mendes attempt something lighter.

I still can't believe that Mendes will be directing the next Bond film, of all things.

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gigi   

You know, I just didn't take the film seriously enough to think that it was smug. I liked the casting of the leads, I think they were able to pull off intimacy without any effort, and the humour that passed between them at those moments when they were alone reflected this. However, some of the other scenes were certainly over-played, particularly the Gyllenhall scenes, and Mendes showed his weakness as a director of comedy at these moments. I think he ought to be given a bit of slack here, it was his first comedy, and correspondingly it was low budget and shot quickly. Overall though, it wasn't a particularly engaging film but had the odd moment that I appreciated. Perhaps because, like others, I felt too targetted for my own comfort. I had a similar feeling when I went to see '(fill in with appropriate number of) days of Summer' which annoyed me a LOT more. This was kind of harmless in its mediocrity.

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M. Leary   

But seriously, someone tell me where they got the money to travel like that. Until then, this film doesn't really exist.

Edited by MLeary

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Thom   

But seriously, someone tell me where they got the money to travel like that. Until then, this film doesn't really exist.

Ha, it doesn't exist, I like that.

Let's see. How long have they lived in that location/dwelling? Maybe they are waiting for the gas to be turned on and it is unseasonably cold. Maybe they are minimalists who stand on their convictions and do not want to pay into the man, and Burt hasn't chopped the wood for the fireplace. Maybe they are extremely frugal and find that this trip is worth the money spent since they are spending it on what they believe is of paramount importance. Maybe it is a tax write-off since Burt is going on an interview and visiting a client. I am not so certain this bothers me too much because Verona does seem to lead us to believe that she makes a good living.

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Persona   

But seriously, someone tell me where they got the money to travel like that. Until then, this film doesn't really exist.

Ha, it doesn't exist, I like that.

Let's see. How long have they lived in that location/dwelling? Maybe they are waiting for the gas to be turned on and it is unseasonably cold. Maybe they are minimalists who stand on their convictions and do not want to pay into the man, and Burt hasn't chopped the wood for the fireplace. Maybe they are extremely frugal and find that this trip is worth the money spent since they are spending it on what they believe is of paramount importance. Maybe it is a tax write-off since Burt is going on an interview and visiting a client. I am not so certain this bothers me too much because Verona does seem to lead us to believe that she makes a good living.

Maybe they bought a lot of Healthy Choice and took advantage of a loophole in their marketing plan.

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M. Leary   
I am not so certain this bothers me too much because Verona does seem to lead us to believe that she makes a good living.

That is still a lot of jet-setting, including a totally unplanned flight from Montreal to Miami. That has got to be pricey.

And if she makes a good living, then why don't they go buy a heater that works? You can get one of those oscillating ceramic ones for ~100. Those heat a room very quickly. And why do they have a woodshop in their bedroom? I mean, that is my dream and all, but...

And, they both have jobs that enable them to work from home. These days, this requires a secure and robust internet connection. Nothing about their home and location lead me to believe they have such a connection.

Edited by MLeary

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Thom   

I am not so certain this bothers me too much because Verona does seem to lead us to believe that she makes a good living.

That is still a lot of jet-setting, including a totally unplanned flight from Montreal to Miami. That has got to be pricey.

And if she makes a good living, then why don't they go buy a heater that works? You can get one of those oscillating ceramic ones for ~100. Those heat a room very quickly. And why do they have a woodshop in their bedroom? I mean, that is my dream and all, but...

And, they both have jobs that enable them to work from home. These days, this requires a secure and robust internet connection. Nothing about their home and location lead me to believe they have such a connection.

This is the best conversation one could have about this film. I actually like "persona's" suggestion (Nice tie in Stefy). Either they are idealists and perfectly content or they are really not ready to place their roots. This isn't home, it is just where they thought home should be. Maybe this isn't an indication of how much they make/have but how they aren't really committed to stay there.

Also, I don't know about the technology because she is some kind of anatomy artist - one would think this occupation would be using a computer program nowadays even after the hand-drawing.

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M. Leary   
Maybe this isn't an indication of how much they make/have but how they aren't really committed to stay there.

Could be, as this would be a very Eggers way to go. Either way, what I recall as being the last line of the film is a really good line. We have (at least once) been in that precise situation (even with the ocean view, albeit from a greater distance) and my wife said the same thing sans f-bomb. Will this be our home? I really, really hope so.

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Thom   

Maybe this isn't an indication of how much they make/have but how they aren't really committed to stay there.

Could be, as this would be a very Eggers way to go. Either way, what I recall as being the last line of the film is a really good line. We have (at least once) been in that precise situation (even with the ocean view, albeit from a greater distance) and my wife said the same thing sans f-bomb. Will this be our home? I really, really hope so.

I must say, you just MADE the ending good for me. Originally the ending felt like a huge let down from the moment they sit on the steps. Your personalizing this really helped me to view this line with much more sympathy as opposed to the sort of flippant way I had originally received it.

The best way I may be able to relate to this now is when we sit down in the "pew" (meaning church), maybe even using the f-bomb (you know non-sans).

Jason- if this movie did indeed exist, you wouldn't be alone. I liked it but I just can't tell if it is because it has that "independent" feel. I mean would have that sort of feel.

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Jason,

I liked the movie quite a bit.

As did I... so you are not toally alone, Jason. :)

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