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August 12, 2012

1

Wanderlust

by Franz Patrick


Wanderlust (2012)
★ / ★★★★

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) thought it was time for them, as a committed couple, to buy their own place in New York City instead of continuing to rent an apartment. After speaking with a consultant, they decided to buy a studio apartment. But when George was fired out of the blue and Linda’s depressing documentary about penguins with cancer was not picked up by HBO, the couple decided to stay with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino), in Atlanta, Georgia until they got back on their feet. However, an overnight stay in Elysium Bed and Breakfast, managed by a free-spirited commune, made them consider leading an alternative lifestyle. Written by David Wain and Ken Marino, “Wanderlust” busted out of the cage promisingly due to its underhanded critique of materialism that plagues most of our lives. When George and Linda argued, I bought them as a couple because I immediately got the impression that they loved each other not only for their similarities but also, and perhaps more importantly, their differences. The genuine comedy and drama that propelled our protagonists forward were immediately sucked away when they arrived in the communal settlement. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea for the screenplay to introduce the colorful characters and make us laugh to remember each of them, I found that the writing consistently relied on surface qualities to get an emotion–any emotion because pretty much everything that transpired in and around the bed and breakfast was so deathly dull–from us. The nudity and dirty talk, effective when used sparingly paired with great timing, became very predictable and embarrassing. The filmmakers turned so desperate to the point where it actually featured a stampede of naked sagging bodies–in slow motion. It wasn’t funny. In fact, I found it to be quite mean-spirited and cynical. I got the impression that it wanted to disgust us and hopefully mistake that response for amusement. Also, there was a subplot involving a missing deed and businessmen wanting to kick out the community in order to build a casino. A lot of it was noise, annoying chatter that didn’t amount nor lead to anything profound or, in the very least, entertaining. After one flat delivery after another, an actor would overact suddenly and I mentally begged them to stop talking. The worst was performed by Rudd as George attempted to encourage himself in front of a mirror to have sex with another woman (Malin Akerman). And just when I thought the humiliation was over, it flooded onto the next scene until it became as annoying as hearing an empty barrel beating beaten by a child. The most interesting and most overlooked character was Marissa (Michaela Watkins), Rick’s wife, so miserable in being a wife and mother that she’d rather drown herself in booze than to deal with her situation. She was surrounded by so many expensive and gorgeous things but she was far from happy. Unlike most of the one-dimensional characters in the commune, Marissa was amusing without even trying. But there was a sadness in her, too. Notice that no one dared to take her seriously even when she hinted about her misery at home. Why worry about her state of mind when she seemed to have it all, right? “Wanderlust,” directed by David Wain, was a bore almost every step of the way because it didn’t bother to develop the supporting characters who were meant to help George and Linda, in an indirect way, to appreciate what they already had. It was a drag to sit through.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Aug 13 2012

    Excellent, balanced review. It sounds like this movie was off to a good start with engaging characters and a relationship that felt real. It’s a shame the filmmaker didn’t have the courage to go with that instead of lapsing into unoriginal forms of comedy. I’m on the fence about whether to see this. Maybe if it comes to Netflix Instant Play. :)

    Reply

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