As anyone in my vicinity knows, I have been rapidly becoming disenfranchised with films. This makes me sad because movies are one of my favorite things in the world. One of the greatest things about movies is to either get whisked away from your own reality or sometimes it’s nice to see your own personal pleasures or tribulations mirrored by screenwriters who are more clever than you and actors who are possibly better looking than you …brought to you by other artists and technicians who know how to make that world more glorious looking, edited in a more snappy way. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a movie to get absorbed in. It’s just a lot harder to get absorbed when it’s a remake of a remake of a television show or some such “I gave up even trying to be creative” atrocity.
I have found some salvation in the movie industry with the independent genre. I’ve always enjoyed a good indie film, and even those are guilty of over doing it, compensating for …something. Most strive for that quirk factor and over shoot the use of Bright Eyes and Urban Outfitters to create a world that will seduce the gen-whatever letter it is now hipsters. But at least with independent films there is that element of it being a labor of love. Even if I don’t love the film, I respect that someone tried to think about what they want to make and worked really hard at bringing it to life. People even (gasp) take pay cuts to make it happen because they believe in it. I’m not hating on the big blockbuster films (well, the greatly made ones that don’t make you walk out shaking your head calculating how many homeless people could have been fed on the budget to make a giant piece of crap). There is something wonderful to be said for the sacred ritual of the cherry coke/popcorn on a hot day, embarking into a big budget fantasy world. Yet like I said, those good big budget films have grown fewer and farther between.
In the past week I have watched Sunshine Cleaning and Away We Go. They have been a completely refreshing breath of dehumidified air. Every aspect of those movies were a joy to watch and experience. I almost forgot what good writing sounded like! Performances that weren’t over the top or based off of a perfect lip gloss application vs. letting vanities go and just telling a story. Sunshine Cleaning had a couple chuckle worthy moments, but it left me feeling a little more sad. There is a consistent theme of self-worth and a sense of belonging in both movies, but the stories are obviously very different. Both films give you sweet optimistic endings without feeding you all the sugary filler you’d get from most movies. They have great balance.
I just finished watching Away We Go, it’s fresh in my mind and it has left me feeling so good, it’s the one I’m more interested in talking about. It is the first movie in a long time that I have laughed out loud repeatedly at. So well written, so well put together (hi, Sam Mendes …you might know him from directing American Beauty or the revival production of Cabaret), the leads Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) and John Krasinski (The Office) were subtle and endearing …you don’t doubt their relationship for a second which the film needs for its success. Rudolph is a bit more of a chameleon and can play it dry but still lovable. Krasinski is, as always, very lovable, earnest and funny. These are qualities that I believe are just embedded in him, if I ever see a movie where I don’t think “That’s John!” I’ll be surprised. One of my biggest concerns was that I wouldn’t enjoy his performance. Just based off of his bushy dressed down appearance, I feared this was his attempt to shout “Hey look! I’m not Jim! I’m in an indy movie being an artist!” and it would distract me from the movie itself. As it turned out he played it to his comfort range and he was cast appropriately so I was wrong, crisis averted. He is just one of those actors who brings himself to whatever he’s doing. I don’t mean that in a bad way, not in this case. He transitions well into the role of Burt. Yeah, Burt. I wouldn’t dare to underestimate how valuable it is to come across as warm, nerdy and charismatic all at once in a role, and to play it real. The genuine delivery of the story is one of its strong points.
One of the very best elements is the supporting cast. There are some of the very best character actors/comedians cast to play small stops along the way in this story. It is a long list but just to give you a taste, we’re talking Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney (playing the complete opposite of her performance in American Beauty …I defy you not to laugh at her or O’Hara), Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jim Gaffigan. It was just a perfect marriage of casting.
Aside from Krasinski trying to “prove” himself, my other fear was just the simple description of the movie. A couple finds out they are having a baby and go travelling around looking for the perfect place to raise their baby. Okay? It sounded sorta interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect actually. I just went off the faith that I loved the cast and director. Turns out the ambiguous description is a good thing, it leaves room for anything. I will just say check it out and enjoy embarking on the lovely yet wacky journey.
disclaimer: if you only like movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and have no room for “lesser” productions, maybe this isn’t for you …otherwise, I think this has something for everyone. My boyfriend took me up on my offer to watch it without him, but I’m thinking I’m going to make him try it out. He may not love it like I do, but I’m pretty sure he’ll enjoy and appreciate it.