"Away We Go" Blu-ray Review
September 16, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Doesn’t it just irk you when genuinely good looking films don’t make it to the theaters around you? Such was the case with Away We Go for me—if it was ever in town, it was very brief. On top of that I had trailers for it constantly airing on TV just teasing me with the funny little jokes in the film and the oddly cute pairing of John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. With semi-mixed reviews for this predictable fair, the so-called indie production (with a $17 million budget) raked in under $10 million worldwide. Which is a shame as it really was a genuinely heartwarming film for the most part.
John Krasinski (“The Office”) and Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”) star in the heartfelt film that explores the comedic twists and turns in one couple’s journey across contemporary America. Anticipating the birth of their first child, longtime couple Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) embark on an ambitious itinerary to visit friends and family in order to find their perfect home. Featuring a remarkable soundtrack and an incredible ensemble cast – including Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O’Hara and Jim Gaffigan.
With a unique opening (I can’t really recall many films that opened on the note that this one did), Away We Go certainly grabbed you with its originality from the start. Of course what started out as original eventually divulged into the usual relationship issues between a couple, although happily this film really wasn’t about courtship or marriage or fretting about an unplanned pregnancy. No, this film embraced all of those (well, aside from the marriage bit) with a couple that was already in love and a couple that wanted the child. It was refreshing that the only thing they were concerned about was how they would raise the child—again a subject that is a bit dated, but it was handled in a way with this film that didn’t feel tired or repetitious.
It definitely helped that the leading stars in the film were so damn likeable. Krasinski plays a more eccentric version of the character he’s made so famous on The Office; it may be unfair to constantly compare his works to that same character, but I’m beginning to think that the character is a lot like Krasinski already, as the same traits often come out in the films I’ve seen him in. Rudolph, on the other hand…holy crap. I know of her only from SNL and I was just floored by what she brought to this film—warm, caring, intelligent…I was just really surprised by her abilities.
But while the film centers on the main characters (obviously), the supporting cast is perhaps even bigger. From the Janney and Gaffigan couple to the Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton couple, the range of quirky characters that this film displayed was just hilarious. When it comes to films that are marketed and advertised in the “indie” fashion as this film was, sometimes the cast can be overly dull or overwhelming eccentric. Here we get a fair amount of eccentricity but it’s also paired down with the tamer individuals of the siblings of Krasinski and Rudolph as well as a couple they know up in Montreal.
While the relationships, again, aren’t anything new, I have to say I just really enjoyed myself while watching this film. It all just felt incredibly real to me and nothing seemed forced (well, maybe the Gyllenhaal bits) at all. The films simplicity is what makes it so engaging and I honestly didn’t want it to end—I became so enamored with the cast that I didn’t want it to end. But when it did, I felt it did appropriately; others may complain that the ending felt tacked on, but considering this film really needed a bit of closure, I’m glad it ended up where it did.
Having said all of that, I think what sets this film apart from other romantic comedies or couples finding themselves or whatever kind of category you want to shove this film into, it is really just a lot more adult in nature. Not just in terms of profanity (though there is that), but also in the subject matter and how it’s dealt with. Nothing feels childish, nothing feels like it came from a PG-13 movie…this movie just feels like one of the most realistic and least hyperbolic representations of life and what a happy couple really feels together.
I’m sure a large part of my enjoyment from this film stemmed from the casting, but I have to say I was really pleasantly surprised. It’s a short, simple, and highly enjoyable film that never wears out its welcome. Sure, we’ve seen bits and pieces of it done before, but Sam Mendes really did a great job making this film feel lighthearted, what with the upbeat soundtrack and such great visuals as that shot of the airplane against the mirrored building—simple but memorable things like that stick with you longer than a raunchy joke or gratuitous sex scene ever could. This one definitely comes Recommended.
Universal brings Away We Go to Blu-ray in a standard Elite case with the usual insert advertising the format and other Universal discs. Disc art is a boring mirrored finish (what happened to the full on art?) and the menu follows the usual “blade” function.
Video arrives in a VC-1 encoded transfer and it…well, it looks nice I guess. This film is full of great visuals (like the aforementioned plane shot) but there just isn’t a lot of depth to really pick out. Granted it looked as one would expect from a modern production—plenty of detail to be gleaned of course, but there just wasn’t a lot here that really jumped out at me that made me glad for the 1080p transfer. Still having said all of that I’m certainly not going to dock it any points—crisp, full of detail, and an overall solid picture from start to finish.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a different story, however. This is a dialogue driven film and as such the center channel gets the chatter. This to be expected and in no way a real mark against the audio transfer, but rarely does anything travel to the surrounds. It takes a night out on the town and the films soundtrack to even wake up the subwoofer and send out to the surrounds; I would’ve thought that the nightclub sequences and chatter from other couples or children off screen would’ve alerted the other speakers, but, alas…no dice. But, again, this isn’t the type of film you really need on Blu-ray; not to say that it doesn’t look and sound great, but it just doesn’t wow you like some Blu’s do.
Extras for this release are limited, but include:
The Making Of (16:13, 1080p)
Green Filmmaking (6:38, 1080p)
Commentary with Director Sam Mendes and Writers Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida
Yeah…that’s all. The making-of and Green Filmmaking (this film was made entirely while going “green,” so we get a rather interesting documentary on it) pieces are entertaining if just for the cast interviews and the commentary sheds some light on elements of the story that may or may not have been so clear to everyone, but…other than that these are pretty basic extras. There is a “My Scenes” feature via BD-Live, but that’s all in terms of BD-Live bonuses.
Overall a rather lackluster disc in terms of extras but still one that comes Recommended.
Away We Go arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 29th.