I was sort of leaning toward seeing the dark S&M Nazi dissection movie Death In Love, but it seemed really inappropriate for The Boy and the more I looked at it, the more I suspected the few IMDB ratings that put its score in the 8s were from the cast, crew and family members of the cast and crew.
So, instead I took The Boy to see Away We Go, which opens with Burt performing oral sex on Verona.
In fairness, it’s a plot-crucial moment, and more funny than anything else. We learn a lot about the two characters both individually and their relationship with each other. So, it’s one of your rare, non-gratuitous oral sex scenes.
It’s also cute, as is the whole movie.
I was somewhat reluctant to see this movie, because it was directed by Sam “Taking Out The Trash Is An Existential Crisis” Mendes. And it does scrutinize the whole family thing, as Mendes is wont to do.
But let’s scroll back a tick: This is the story of Burt and Verona, a 30-something couple that has just discovered that they’re gong to have a baby. Verona’s parents are deceased, and Burt’s parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara) have chosen this moment to take a two year trip to Antwerp.
Lacking any local support, Burt and Verona are now free to travel about the country in search of some kind of family role model.
That’s right people: It’s a road picture.
And it works! What’s nice is that it doesn’t work just because Mendes is a fine director and the actors (Maya Rudolph of Idiocracy and John Kasinski of “The Office”) are very believable, but because the characters they’re playing are very likable. Flawed, certainly, but very likable.
They doubtless represent a big chunk of the post-Boomer generations, too. With no real imperative to do much of anything, no real parental guidance to speak of, and an unprecedented amount of freedom, Burt and Verona are not the first to realize that they’ve got a kid coming and they’d better get their act together before it shows up.
Part of what makes them likable, though, is that they begin this long journey in an effort to figure out the best life for their child. And not in a everything-has-to-be-perfect way, but in a what-is-a-family way.
Their journey takes them to a family that just sort of hangs together because, well, that’s what families do. They’re sort of an unlikable group, but you do feel a kind of empathy for them.
Then we meet Verona’s younger sister, who’s a bit more adrift than she is. After that, it’s Burt’s cousin, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (who reminds us that she’s a lot more believable as an insufferable New Age-y shrew than a Assistant D.A.) who nurses her kids well past the usual age, and shares a family bed (and more!) with the kids.
And so it goes. There isn’t really a “normal” family here, but that’s to be expected. And as awkward and uncomfortable as many of the scenes are, we always have Burt and Verona’s ambition to do right by their kid.
This really was a pleasant surprise: lightly humorous, sweet and hopeful. I found myself slightly annoyed by the acoustic guitar folk music that’s mandatory in these films, but that was probably more due to the previews leading up to this movie that looked and sounded just like the preview for this movie.
The Boy really liked it, too, way better than Revolutionary Road, and he brings a new understanding to his viewing since he had his movie class. We both agreed that the comedic and other light-hearted aspects made this a more watchable movie. And I thought it actually made the serious parts more profound than the relentless despair of the DiCaprio/Winslet vehicle.
It won’t get the plaudits, though, so you’ll have to be a little more aggressive if you want to actually catch this one.