Late twenties female: check.
Requires an awkward, nerdy-hot male lead: check.
Identifies with smart ass, tough female lead: check.
Story attempts to convey the longings and troubles she herself contemplates: check.
Will be likely to buy the soulful, meandering soundtrack: check.
While this checklist works on many levels, the equation can unbalance itself. Take for instance, last summer's release of Away We Go. When I heard Dave Eggers had made the transition from autobiographical novel to autobiographical film, I was the first girl to hit the internet to watch the trailer, read from behind the scenes and wistfully imagine Johnathan Krasinski donning a beard and glasses. Yet when it came time to purchase my movie ticket, something stopped me.
Here I sit, almost a year later and happy that I saved twelve dollars and waited until its release on Netflix. It's not that I didn't enjoy this movie, I enjoyed it a great deal. But there's something not quite right about this story. I know, I know... There's something not quite right about a far fetched plot sending an expectant couple traveling across the US to redefine their family dogma? Whhhaat?
I feel like it's an issue of the story simply being unable decide what it is. You have a mismatched couple, Burt and Verona, who find themselves pregnant. At the same time their family foundation is falling apart when his parents decide to leave the country. When wondering how they're going to recreate this idea of home life, they decide to do a little traveling to see what other families they sort of know are up to and to contemplate their own idea of family.
Two stops in, we meet Verona's sister, who provides us with not-at-all-on-purpose-exposition-back-story on some deeply routed pain over the loss of their parents. Is Verona eventually going to let this out and let Burt in? The suspense is killing me. This is the kind of not so subtle plot device that I tend to take issue with. Instead of defining exactly who you want your character to be, you only give her a problem or a trait to work with. Perhaps if they had cut out one or two story lines, it could have been easier.
I've also never been a fan of multiple story plots. (Love Actually comes to mind). They squeeze in just enough story and just enough characters, that you end up not becoming invested or care about any of them, even the main characters. Instead, I was distracted with the likes of Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan, (both rank high in my book) and their loud, cursing antics. Then we meet Maggie Gyllenhaal, a free-spirited bare breasted mom, teaching the art of open love making and a ban on strollers. A stop later, we're in Madison, meeting, (who are they again?) a reproductively challenged couple who has taken to adoption and teaches the couple about togetherness. We end our hopscotch with a trip to visit his brother, (my beloved Paul Schneider) whose wife has just left him and his young daughter, leaving them wondering what's next.
I guess my main problem is, is all of this needed? Who are these people? Why does Burt and Verona even care? The story has a decent thing going and there was certainly enough there in principle to see it through. I enjoy a good-hearted story as much as the next person, but was it just me, or was this movie so quirky it was unbelievable? It was like my problem with Rachel Getting Married. You just can't throw in a drum circle, a Brazilian parade and a jazz band at a wedding without some people thinking you've gone too far. Life is weird enough.
By the way, I totally bought the soundtrack.