My day was a little stressy and funky so by the time I got to the Wanderlust screening, I was ready to laugh. And, boy, did I. The movie, directed by David Wain, is about married couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), who find themselves homeless after George loses his job. On their way to Atlanta to stay with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino), they stop at a commune named Elysium that’s full of hippies, free love, and vegan dining. George is just looking for a temporary roof over their heads, but Linda may have other plans. The experience takes them out of their comfort zones, but in the end helps them find where they’re supposed to be.
I’m being intentionally vague with the synopsis because I don’t want to spoil any of the outrageous surprises. Instead, I’ll just post the discussion I had after the screening with my regular contributor, Eric Edwards.
Eric Edwards: It’s like the filmmakers drew a line, then decided to go a hundred miles beyond that line.
Pop Culture Nerd: No, it’s more like “What’s a line? We’ve never heard of such a thing.” This movie is definitely not appropriate for young people. It’s barely appropriate for adults.
EE: But I laughed, and that’s rare for me these days. A lot of the humor I’ve been seeing in movies lately is just cringe-inducing. The best comedy is grounded in truth, and I could see how this could happen, especially with George’s sudden unemployment, the couple’s feelings of uncertainty and questioning of everything.
PCN: You’re right, but that’s where reality stops. The characters at Elysium and some of the situations are pure zaniness and insanity. I haven’t laughed that hard at the movies in a long time. This is a good time to mention that when people go see this, they should be tolerant of their fellow moviegoers being loud. There were lots of gasping and guffaws and “Oh my gosh!”es all around. I might have seen flying nachos from the guy next to me.
EE: I think some of those guffaws came from me, and there was a lady behind me with a laugh that could only be described as “avant-garde.”
PCN: I’m so glad Paul Rudd finally gets another chance to be funny. Some of his recent movies have stuck him in the straight-man role—Dinner for Schmucks, anyone?—which is a waste of his talents. Here, we get to see him react to the hippies and slowly come undone. Many of the biggest laughs came from just the look on his face.
EE: I’m a fan of Rudd’s so of course I liked him in this, but this is the first I’ve liked Aniston in a very long time. Maybe since Friends.
PCN: Was it the material that made you like her? What was she doing that was different for you?
EE: I think Rudd both grounded her and pushed her to new levels.
PCN: She had a good script (by Wain and Marino), and was surrounded by so many strong supporting actors that she seemed relaxed. She didn’t have to try so hard to wring comedy out of crap. She also made a poncho look sexy. And useful.
EE: From the supporting cast, Michaela Watkins stood out for me as George’s sister-in-law. She hilariously downplayed her character’s raging unhappiness. It was as though she wanted to pull out a gun or knife at any second.
PCN: If she could rouse from her drug- and alcohol-induced stupor, that is.
PCN: She was funny because she made a lot of her mumbly lines sound like second thoughts or if she just improvised them. How about Joe Lo Truglio as the wannabe novelist?
EE: I found him annoying after a while. There are lots of other actors who could have done that part.
PCN: Um, I don’t know if many actors would’ve been willing to go as far as what that role demanded. (Readers, this will be clear to you, for better or worse, when you see the movie.)
EE: They kept pushing that one joke about his novel’s plot twist and it just wasn’t funny anymore after a while. It was probably the only weak link for me in an otherwise pretty funny movie.
PCN: I didn’t mind that running gag at all. I was too busy laughing.
Nerd verdicts: PCN—Wanderlust leads to hilarity. EE: You should wander into Wanderlust.
Photos: Universal Studios/Gemma La Mana