Tuesdays and Thursdays are cheap movie nights in Cobble Hill, and so there was a mad scramble to get into the new Sam Mendes/Dave Eggers film “Away We Go.” Smuggling in snacks from Sweet Melissa across the street (the equivalent of buying a full-price ticket anyway), we slouched down low in our seats and let the tiny screen take us away into the world of Bert and Verona (John Krasinksi and Maya Rudolph, respectively).
To be honest, I had no expectations. I’d read all of the reviews telling Eggers to stick to his novels and all of the insinuations that this was just another movie in the Juno/Little Miss Sunshine vein.
But not to fear: it wasn’t. Eggers elegantly (and hilariously) tells the story of Bert and Verona, who is pregnant with their first child, trying to find “home.” Through a series of vignettes that take us from Phoenix to Madison, Montreal to Miami, we see through their eyes a sampler of families (the worst and the best) that reveal to the couple what exactly it is that they want their family to be.
Bert is a doting yet dorky insurance futures salesman; Verona is a medical illustrator (yes, she draws the insides of dead people). They’re palpable affection for each other lends itself to its own laugh-out-loud moments (Bert’s unstoppable quest to have the overly pregnant Verona have sex with him) as well as tender exchanges that veer far from sentimental (Verona and Bert ponder whether they’re “fuck-ups” while cuddling on their couch in their house where there is no heat). Egger’s vision of love is rough and tumble but authentic; he makes you want what Bert and Verona have, even with all of the mess that comes with it. John Krasinski finally moves away from his “Jim” characters (and remains just as adorable), but Maya Rudolph nearly steals the show. Verona is simultaneously tough and delicate, funny and serious and Rudolph carries the role with a certain delicate grace
The supporting cast deserves just as much credit. Allison Janney plays an alcoholic mom who’s crass remarks target her own children and conspiracy-theorist husband; Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara have brief roles as Bert’s self-absorbed faux-hippie parents who decide to move to Belgium just weeks before the baby is born. But Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the cake in her role as trust-fund-baby new-age-mommy LN, a follower of the “Continuum” method of parenting: no separation, no sugar, no strollers (not to mention the communal bed so that their children will be “exposed to their love-making).
Dave Eggers successfully moves from page to screen and the result is a tender story of a couple figuring out how to make themselves a family, and the paradigms and deterrents they run into along the way.