I’m sure we’ve all had fantasies of throwing caution to the wind, leaving all of our responsibilities behind and letting fate take us where it may. However, the onus of being an adult and doing what we’ve been taught we’re supposed to do prevents us from taking these flights of fancy. Yet the characters in David Wain’s Wanderlust are, in some ways, forced to take this leap of faith as their dreams and plans disappear before their eyes, forcing them to embark on an adventure in which societal conventions are left behind and being true to yourself is fraught with comedic peril.
The couple in question is George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) who are blissfully unaware that they simply don’t have what it takes to make it in the Big Apple. He toils as a corporate drone, hating every minute of it, while she flits from one misguided career choice to the next, the latest of which is having made a documentary film about penguins with testicular cancer. While her meeting to sell this to the executives at HBO proves to be a disaster for her, it delivers one of the film’s funniest moments. This, coupled with George’s sudden firing, puts the couple into a financial tailspin that forces them to give up their “micro-loft” (read: studio apartment) and move in with his boorish brother in Atlanta, which lasts all of about two days. With nowhere to go, George and Linda return to a retreat where they’d spent the night on the trip down. Called “Elysium” this commune, or “intentional community” as its inhabitants refer to it, is a place where no boundaries exist. Public nudity is allowed, free love is embraced and doors have been banished, much to George’s dismay as he ends up constantly being interrupted while going to the bathroom.
The “fish out of water” premise is nothing new, but a great deal of fun is generated with the tension that develops between George and Linda. Initially he’s eager to live rent-free with nothing expected from him while she has reservations, however the tables turn once Seth (Justin Theroux) catches Linda’s eye and suddenly the notion of free love doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. This turnaround allows the two leads to run the comedic gamut here and the efforts of both save the film. Aniston’s ability as a light comedienne is often forgotten, what with her personal life often overshadowing her talent, but she reminds us here how good she is, especially when Linda falls under Seth’s sway and lets down her defenses. The actress is in need of much better material so that we might see what she can do.
However, if there is a comedic actor making movies today that’s more valuable than Rudd, I’d like to meet him. The affable performer has become the master of the awkward moment, unafraid to take his characters to the nth degree of embarrassment. This is never more evident than when George is trying to psyche himself up to sleep with the comely Eva (Malin Akerman), looking into a mirror uttering one macho, reflective compliment more delusional and ridiculous than the next. His agony is our delight and it is to his and Aniston’s credit that Wanderlust ends up being far better than it should be.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.