Tuesday 12 November 2013

Movie Review: Wanderlust (2012)

A comedy about a stressed married couple trying out life in a quirky commune, Wanderlust has as many sharp moments as dull ones.

George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) are a New York couple about to purchase their first, very tiny and very expensive, apartment. No sooner have they moved in than Paul loses his job. With Linda getting nowhere with her latest career as documentary filmmaker, the couple abandon New York and accept an offer from George's brother Rick (Ken Marino) to relocate to Atlanta. On the long drive south, George and Linda snipe at each other but then stay for one magical night at a ramshackle bed and breakfast called Elysium, where they meet permanent residents living an idyllic, carefree life, including the hunky Seth (Justin Theroux) and slightly senile owner and original founder Carvin (Alan Alda).

Finding life intolerable with the loutish Rick and his seemingly perpetually medicated wife Marisa (Michaela Watkins), George and Linda escape back to Elysium and attempt life as part of the commune, where there are no doors, no boundaries, and everything is supposed to be shared. Seth comes on to Linda, Eva (Malin Ã…kerman) wants to have sex with George, the perpetually nude Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio) cannot stop talking about his wine and his novel, and Rodney (Jordan Peele) lands George's car in the middle of the lake. And with the relationship between George and Linda stressed to near breaking, developers show up, attempting to evict the commune and turn the land of Elysium into a casino.

Co-produced by Judd Apatow, Wanderlust plays on the post-recession turmoil of stressed families struggling to cope financially, and finds its best moments in contrasting a hectic New York City life with the languid, let-it-all-literally-hang-out pace at Elysium. The laid back lifestyle at the commune looks good after everything that could go wrong does go wrong for George and Linda. Somewhere in the dark corner of the happiness scale is Rick, full of himself for successfully peddling port-a-potties, blissfully unaware that his home life is in tatters while he boasts about his business savvy.

Director David Wain keeps the film compact at under 100 minutes, and does find some sweet funny spots, the lack of doorways at the commune providing an opportunity for humour to walk in, while naked Wayne dangles all over the place, stomping on grapes and talking about his book. Much less funny is George seeking his vulgar side and getting all tongue twisted trying to motivate himself to have sex with Eva. The sub-plot about the casino development is also quite weak.

Jennifer Aniston does not stretch much beyond her usual persona of the girl next door, embarking on her next slightly ditzy adventure, fighting to be a bit of a rebel against her better judgement, and always a natural magnet for men. Paul Rudd is a lightweight, very much a bland second fiddle to Aniston and the cast of misfits at the commune.

Wanderlust is neither wonderful nor woeful, just willingly wacky.

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