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Sam Mendes’ newest film isn’t the next “American Beauty” as ads for it have claimed. In fact, the only connection between the two films is Mendes at the helm. “Away We Go” is better compared to the novels by its screenplay’s co-author, Dave Eggers: a road movie about a pregnant (unmarried) couple trying to find the perfect home to start their family.

John Krasinski (“The Office”) and Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”) star as Burt and Verona, a longtime couple living in Colorado to be close to Burt’s parents for when their child is born. But when Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels) choose to move to Europe when the baby is due, the couple decides to travel around the continent to find the perfect home to raise their child.

Visiting friends and family in Phoenix, Tuscon, Madison, Montreal and Miami, Burt and Verona act more as narrators or tour guides for the audience versus leads. They experience Allison Janney’s Lily’s drunken rant about how deflated her breasts became after pregnancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s LN explain why she would never put her child in a stroller with the same shock and humor the audience experiences when watching it.

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
Starring: John Krasinki, Maya Rudolph
Running time: 98 mins
Rating: R
Seen at: Boston Common Loews

Verona and Burt are supposed to be from a new generation of different-thinkers: rebelling against the tradition of marriage, thirty-somethings and still trying to settle into their lives, both a little off from the rest of the world. It is their insecurities over whether they will be good parents or of their place in the world that makes them relatable to the audience. What “Away We Go” does a great job of is not promoting or disapproving of the lifestyles of its lead couple “" or any of the families they visit.

“Away We Go” follows the Mendes theme of redefining and analyzing what makes a family, though this time in a more positive light than “American Beauty” or “Revolutionary Road.” The couples shown throughout the film are an exposƒ© on today’s American family. Families are no longer the sitcom-perfect units from the “Ëœ50s “" something “American Beauty” did delve deep to analyze “" but angry, quirky and broken. Away to Montreal showed the theme of the film best when Chris Messina’s character explained of their adopted children and inability to conceive that family is what you make of it: you can only shower your children with love.

What makes “Away We Go” work is the exceptional acting of not only Rudolph and Krasinski but the incredible supporting cast as well. From Gyllenhaal, Lynsky and Paul Schneider to the wonderful array of child actors (Pete Wiggins is priceless in his one brief scene), it is the actors who make the characters real people versus stereotypes on paper.

A significant improvement from the unredeeming “Revolutionary Road” “Away We Go” is truly moving addition to summer movies littered with popcorn blockbusters and raunchy comedies. And with the fantastic script, great directing and wonderful performances from all the cast, it might become similar to “American Beauty” in another way: an Oscar winner.

About The Author

Terri Schwartz was a Blast Contributing Editor from 2008-2009.

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