Away I Went (Spoilers Abound!)

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Apparently Away We Go got a lot of bad reviews. People thought the characters were contrived or over the top or unfair or two dimensional or something. I only skimmed one review. It was from some online newspaper in NJ and that critic felt that the main characters were unrealistic. It’s clear that she’s never met me or any of my friends.

The picture to the left (It’s above, it was supposed to be to the left and is on the left in the writing pane but emphatically not in the published version. DAMN YOU WORDPRESS!) is the moment they realize she’s pregnant. Yes, it’s an unconventional way to realize it but as soon as the scene started I knew where it was going. I guess I’m just in tune with the unconventional and improperly matured. The couple, Burt & Verona, know they have these shortcomings, they know they’ve been rolling through life like human dust bunnies and they know that, since they want to have this kid, they have some decisions to make. So in true dust bunny fashion they hit the road. In true procrastinator fashion they do “research” as a way of putting off the terrifying act of decision-making. With all that going for them it was virtually assured that I would like them.

That being said, my major quibble with the film is that it tries to cover too much ground in too short a time. They go to Arizona and Michigan and Toronto and Wisconsin I think and Miami after spending some time with family in the Pacific Northwest and I haven’t even gone into where they end up. As a result things get shortchanged. For the most part that didn’t bother me so much. In the places where back story needed to be filled we spent some time and in other places I recognized what the writers were going for, I’d met the families they were sketching in my own life, so I could deal with brevity of the visit. Did I wish I could have seen more of Allison Janney? Of course! I always wish I could have seen more of Allison Janney. When they hit Toronto, though, it wasn’t enough and that wasn’t OK and it was all because of the lovely lady below, Melanie Lynskey.

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If you know Ms. Lynskey at all it’s probably as Rose The Stalker on Two And A Half Men. She’s of course been in many other projects and we’ve all been just missing her as she flits in, blows us away, and departs. Away We Go is no exception to that rule. Lynskey’s character is the happily married wife half of Burt & Verona’s college friends, Tom & Munch Garnett. The Garnetts live in a fabulous brownstone, they have glorious children they have adopted from around the globe, they like their kids as much as they love them but aren’t chained to them, they love each other in every moment and they’re fun. If I were going to sketch the ideal family it’d be them, they’re just what I love, so of course there’s a sucker punch. They’re also the infertile couple. Here the writers, husband and wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, have combined two of the searingest of hot button issues into one stop on the oh-my-god-we’re-having-a-baby merry-go-round and it’s the shortest section of the movie. We get twice as much time with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s self-righteous attachment parenting schtick and we get barely a glimpse of Lynskey’s subtle depth as she lavishes love on her children and mourns a very recent miscarriage while showing her pregnant friend a good time. It’s a criminal waste of resources. I’ll have to rent the DVD to see if I can eke some justice out of the deleted scenes. In the meantime Melanie Lynskey, of whom I was already quite fond, has won herself a rabidly devoted fan.

The climactic moment of the movie went on too long. Frankly, everything after we left Lynskey’s presence was hard for me to concentrate on until the very end. They do end up somewhere. Everyone ends up somewhere, right? When, where and how they did broke my heart with the heaviness of its load of hope and doubt and inevitability.

Is it a perfect movie? No, certainly not. Is it a superbly crafted movie? I’m sorry to say, probably not, at least from a dramatic writing perspective. It is, however, well-executed and touching when you might least expect it. For someone who grew up on the love of road movies like The Sure Thing this felt like a movie made for me and mine. It’s a ride I was glad I took.

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One Response to “Away I Went (Spoilers Abound!)”

  1. Jon Says:

    They don’t go to Toronto. They go to Montreal. Maybe you should actually pay attention to the film before blogging about it.

    Or was your error some failed attempt to seem laid back, yawning and indifferent? If so, nice work.

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