Sam Mendes Gives it Another "Go"

Only a few months after Sam Mendes' powerfully and cripplingly dramatic "Revolutionary Road" (which was robbed of some much-deserved nominations, not wins, at this last outing at the Oscars, most definitely for Leonardo Dicaprio but also for the underrated Kathy Bates) and he's already geared up for another go with yet another American couple to explore in "Away We Go." Lucky for them he's had his fill of destroying dreams, and now is intent on preserving the glue that holds a couple together (played by John Krasinski of "The Office" and Maya Rudolph who was a favorite of mine from "SNL" and appeared in Robert Altman's swan song "A Prairie Home Companion") after they find out their newborn baby might not have a home. It's totally new territory for Mendes - who's done suburban parody, disconcerting war pictures, and cold gangster films - and as far away tonally from "Revolutionary Road" as can be conceived, so it's an experiment I'm quite excited about, especially with all the talent involved.

The film has the stylings of "Little Miss Sunshine" which yields some amount of promise, but at the same time makes me groan at the prospect of sitting through another film in which people act insensitively to one another for our own amusement. (As much as I adore Catherine O'Hara, her line and delivery about moving "3000 miles away" are completely unfunny to me.) But unlike "Little Miss Sunshine," the film looks like it'll take a more tender approach to their oddities and misgivings, all in a post-"Juno"/"Rachel Getting Married" kind of way, relishing in the unpredictable joys that arise from difficult circumstances rather than pitting those circumstantial incidences and, albeit unlikely, aspirations against an overtly cruel, bitter and cynical world as was depicted all throughout "Sunshine." (With the exception of the pageant director at the end, every minor character in the entire film is either a bastard or a fool.) I think the film takes more notes from the worldview of author Dave Eggers (who plays screenwriter here, this now being the second film penned by him that I am interested in) than director-duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who often uses the harshness that can tinge an expression misinterpreted or taken out of context to contrast with their eventual softness. His characters are frequently hardened souls (or souls looking to get hard - sorry, vulgar, but true) who don't quite experience enlightenment in some climactic moment, but rather discover that their severe callousness is choking the people around them, or themselves. (His novel You Shall Know Our Velocity! explores precisely that in the guise of a road narrative.)

I've had a particular interest in Sam Mendes ever since he did "Road to Perdition" and after I'd discovered that he was a comrade of Rob Marshall's ("Chicago," "Memoirs of a Geisha," the upcoming "Nine") in their work in theatre and on Broadway. His films maintain that stage sensibility, very often framed in such a way that they could retain utter fidelity if transported instantly to the Steppenwolf house, for instance. ("Revolutionary Road" could be the next "August: Osage County" if it only had some great talent willing to do it.) His use of light, music, camera distance, even color reeks theater and its a wonderful thing to keep in mind while watching his films. The heartbreaking scene in "Road to Perdition" where Tom Hanks meets Paul Newman for the last time in the rain surrounded by buildings dotted with windows and silhouettes peering out is made all the more moving when you consider that if it were on the stage, it would've been conceived of as a choreographed dance almost, with bullets as their confetti or glitter, rather than as two disparate performances occurring at once in a large sound stage. There seems to be a lot of open-air environments in "Away We Go," so it'll be fascinating to see how Mendes might apply his theater background.

The film arrives in limited release on June 5th.

Will you be going "Away" on this "Road"?

IMAGE from: Paste
IMAGE from: Entertainment Weekly
SCOOPED first by: In Contention


  1. yeah, it looks good. i'd like to see how sam mendes directs this film. like what you said last night, such an extreme in movie range, from revolutionary road to this film.

  2. I can't wait to see this movie! Like lots.