Bringing Up Baby
John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph go looking for home and find truth
There is a purpose that runs through director Sam Mendes' widely varied screen work, a noble, often quixotic quest on which entire multi-million-dollar endeavors hinge: the moment of perfect honesty. And with Away We Go, Mendes has found a movie in which the couple at its center acts in place of the director. A scruffy John Krasinski and the lovely Maya Rudolph play an expecting couple who, upon learning that their safe haven of his parents' house has been nullified, set about on a cross-country trip to find a place to settle and build a family. They seek a truthful place and Mendes does his searching along with them. In their quest, the couple encounters a few examples of what they don't want to end up as--sniping grotesquery, strangling new-age hippie idealism, a father whose wife ran off and left him with no clue except the knowledge that his daughter will be damaged forevermore.
As written by acclaimed novelists and real-life married parents Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this couple gets a couple of lucky breaks. For one thing, they haven't met the challenge of parenthood yet, only pregnanthood, so they have the luxury of sitting to the side of their friends' disasters and declaring themselves better than that. They also don't seem to worry about money. That's nice. But their biggest break is that they are intelligent enough to know that they don't know anything and are willing to concede that to each other, and considering how easy Eggers and Vida have gone on them, it's good that they've earned that for themselves. Krasinski is predictably lovable, if a bit of a goof, but his thankless role--which he pulls off wonderfully--is to act as a springboard for Rudolph, who shows remarkable depth, warmth, and command of the screen.
Away We Go is an unequivocal triumph for Mendes above all else, because the honest moment he uncovers amid this series of vignettes packs a wallop. Without giving too much away, the couple appears to find the perfect place in Canada, where they reconnect with a couple who never conceived their own child but have provided a stable and healthy environment for a rainbow brood of adopted kids. Underneath the surface, however, lies the deepest kind of sadness, revealed to them through a monologue by Chris Messina (with a huge assist from Melanie Lynskey) that stands as one of the most human movie moments in years. And since Mendes' movies are entirely dependent upon just those moments, Away We Go is a big success.