Monday, May 24, 2010


Release Date: December 2009

Starring: John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, with brief appearances by Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Screenwriters: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida

Pitch: Expecting their first baby, a couple contemplates how their lives will change and searches for the right place to call home.

Rating: *** ½

What works: This began with a crisp screenplay and was only enhanced by strong performances by the leads and the supporting actors who pop up during different legs of the journey. It is the acting, more than the writing, that ultimately stands out. What a compliment to Eggers and Vida! Krasinski is geeky good as Burt and Rudolph blew me away with a seemingly effortless performance as Verona. She delivered her lines so naturally I felt her character was real and I was just listening in. O’Hara chews up her brief part as Burt’s mother. I’ve never been a fan of Allison Janney, but she had a delectable part, over the top yet realistic. We all know women like this who have no boundaries with what they say and do. (I’m hoping Janney gets more comedic roles.) Gyllenhaal had a tricky part as a grating Mother Earth character, yet she pulled it off. Again, it’s a sign of good writing that the quirky roles work so well.

The natural dialog between Burt and Verona is lovely. He’s naïve and she is guarded. She accepts him for the odd duck he is. They came across as more defined, more real than what you see in most rom-coms of today. I’d put the film right up there with “(500) Days of Summer” and “Flirting with Disaster”.

As a film that begins with an unorthodox discovery that Verona is pregnant and focuses on a time when she is six months pregnant, I was relieved that the film ended without Verona giving birth. We’ve seen so many delivery scenes. This movie is not really about the baby. The pregnancy is a catalyst to get Burt and Verona to examine what they’ve (not) accomplished and to look ahead.

Where it fumbles: It’s tricky to have the movie switch to so many locations (original home, Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, Miami), with all characters other than Burt and Verona only appearing in a single leg of the couple’s journey in search of a new place to call home. Each new location comes off as a separate vignette and this makes the film uneven. You can’t have each leg equally strong. The fact that the strongest scenes are the opening ones with O’Hara and Janney hurts the pacing as well. Rather than building momentum, there is a feeling of fizzle midway. To be clear, Burt and Verona never lose their appeal; it’s just that the supporting character storylines don’t snap like the early scenes.

Still, it’s a movie well worth seeing. I’m left scratching my head as to why the film only grossed $9.5 million at the box office. While not blockbuster fare, its earnings should have been + $25 mill. Sad when you think that “The Proposal” earned $163 million and even “Did You Hear about the Morgans?” grossed $29 million.

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