Away We Go -- Film Review

For the second time in the past six months, director Sam Mendes has come out with a film probing the anatomy of a relationship.

But "Away We Go," starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Maya Rudolph and "The Office" regular John Krasinski as an expectant young couple grappling with where to put down roots, shares little else in common with "Revolutionary Road."

The former has a much airier, freer vibe in contrast to the studied claustrophobia of the latter.

Despite the lightness of tone and lively turns by the likes of Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Catherine O'Hara, the soul-searching trip taken by its leads is not without the occasional overly purposeful bump in the road.

Even as summer counterprogramming, the Focus Features release could find it tricky luring its targeted female demographic away from such higher-profile openings as "My Life in Ruins" and, potentially, "The Hangover."

A first-time feature collaboration between novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, "Away We Go" traces the geographical/spiritual journey undertaken by the introspective, six-months-pregnant Verona (Rudolph) and goofy Burt (Krasinski), who are trying to determine the best place to call home after his folks (O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) have announced they're leaving Colorado for Belgium.

Included among the stops on the itinerary is Phoenix, home to Verona's former business colleague, the wildly inappropriate Lily (a wildly appropriate Janney); then it's off to Tucson to visit her sister, Grace (Carmen Ejogo), uncertain as to where her own relationship is headed.

Next comes Wisconsin, where Burt's close family friend Ellen (the always-welcome Gyllenhaal) has become the totally Zen "LN" after hooking up with the smug Roderick (Josh Hamilton); and a stopover in Montreal, where Verona's former classmates Tom (Chris Messina) and Munch (Melanie Lynskey) preside over a seemingly joyful household of adopted children.

Obviously each destination offers a snapshot of the various challenges inherent in carving out the family unit one would like to create as opposed to the family into which one was born.
But though it's nice to see Mendes take a looser, not quite so studied approach to his filmmaking, some stops along the way -- like a detour to visit Burt's suddenly single brother (Paul Schneider) -- feel dramatically off-course.

Production values have a nice, grassroots texture, including Ellen Kuras' cinematography and John Dunn's costume design, though musically the film could have packed a bit lighter where the extensive and occasionally intrusive acoustic song selection is concerned.

Opens: Friday, June 5 (Focus Features)
Production companies: Big Beach, Neal Street Prods.
Cast: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenwriters: Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida
Executive producers: Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Pippa Harris
Producers: Edward Saxon, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf
Director of photography: Ellen Kuras
Production designer: Jess Gonchor
Music: Alexi Murdoch
Costume designer: John Dunn
Editor: Sarah Flack
Rating: R, 100 minutes
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