I had been looking forward to seeing Away We Go since I first saw the trailer a few months back. It seemed like it would be an enjoyable and simple story; and I fell in love with the song “All My Days” by Alexi Murdoch that is featured in it. Last night I finally saw the film, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to write down what I gleaned from it. More thoughts after the jump.
SPOILER ALERT! I’m just sayin’…
The finished film landed perfectly between the rich, polished feel of Hollywood and the simple, raw feel of indie. It had solid actors and the cinematography and lighting were very well done, but the story is simple and they did a really good job of making the filmmaking seem simple as well.
The main characters felt like very real people wrestling with very real questions. …even if they did find themselves in some odd situations. I really connected with John Krasinski’s character (Burt). I feel like he anchored the film very well and gave the audience an entry point for all of the strange, awkward, and humorous scenes the film contains.
Verona, the other main character played by Maya Rudolph, kept reminding me of someone I know but couldn’t place. I think that’s a testament to her acting as well as the scriptwriting. Her story and persona felt close to home, yet she was distinct enough to be her own person. Together, they were a couple that was approachable and average, yet interesting and entertaining.
The sexual references were dangerously close to being overkill. In a movie like this you expect there to be some sexual humor, and for the most part they executed it well. However, for a short time I began to wonder if the film was turning into more of a diary of all the awkward sexual conversations they found themselves in. In my opinion there needed to be a little more humor that wasn’t about sex, or at least spread it around as it seemed a tad too concentrated in the middle of the film.
The entire soundtrack comprised songs from a single artist, Alexi Murdoch. … Actually, I just checked Amazon and it looks like the soundtrack contains a few songs from other artists, though they might be “inspired by” type songs; I dunno –probably should research this more. My point is that all the songs had a similar feel and I think they complemented the picture perfectly. Having a single musician compose all the songs really added to the simplicity of the story and wove a consistent thread throughout the film.
The dialog felt a little forced at a few points, not cheesey but cliche perhaps. These moments happened most frequently when the characters were recalling stories and memories from their past. What they were effectively doing was building some history behind the story/characters, but it felt a little too much like a text book version of character development.
I think the real problem has nothing to do with the dialog itself nor the actors. Rather, the story was butting up against one of the inherent limits of filmmaking, that is the fact that dialog does not work well in a visual medium. Filmmaking is “storyshowing” not storytelling, to borrow the term from Richard Pepperman. My guess is that they realized this weakness in the script pretty late in the process. They would have to substantially re-write it to avoid the dragging dialog scenes, or they’d have to fork over a lot more money to show the stories as opposed to telling them in dialog. I’m really not sure what I would have done in this case, and it’s very possible that they picked the best option.
I can’t help but wonder what the editing and directing process looked like when they were working on the ending of the film. It felt like they filmed multiple endings and then decided to use them all. *insert light bulb “ah ha!” moment…
The first “ending” (referring to the scene on the trampoline) felt like an ending because there were no stones left unturned. Everything had more or less been resolved at that point and I fully expected the credits to roll. However, the film picks up and Verona opens a can of emotion and gets the ball rolling once again. THAT was the problem. That scene should have taken place much earlier in the film because she sets the stage and then they resolve it in the very next scene. There really wasn’t enough time between the setup and the callback to make it as strong as it could have been.
Also, I would guess that the first “ending” was never intended to be concluding scene at all. Rather the actors delivered such a stellar performance coupled with a building song from Alexi Murdoch that it just happened to feel that way.
All in all, I really enjoyed the film. It’s not for everybody, and it’s not without its shortcomings; but I personally am a sucker for a good, simple story. It was raw enough to feel like an independent film, but not raw to the point of being distracting or poorly done. I’m already looking forward to the DVD release hoping to hear the director’s commentary.