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Away We Go (2009) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Image"Away We Go" is a somber tale told in a funny way.  The film examines the depressing, and often zany lives of several couples and individuals.  The film comes across as surprisingly original, but drags on quite a bit for only a 90-minute film.  I was shocked how many times I looked at the counter trying to figure out when the film would be over.

"Away We Go" is about the path to self-discovery and parenthood for Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph).  Burt and Verona are college dropouts that live a simple life.  Verona does artwork of the insides of dead bodies well Burt sells insurance for insurance for insurance.  When Verona gets an unplanned pregnancy, the couple starts to think about what their lives have become.  Burt is anxious to be a parent, while Verona is unsure of herself.

Burt and Verona live near Burt's parents, the primary reason that they moved out to their present location.  At a family dinner, Burt's parents shock them by telling them that they are moving to Belgium in June, one month before the baby is born.  Aghast, Burt and Verona decide that they could also start over, live anywhere they want.  This sets them forth upon their journey.

The couple makes a plan to fly around the country, visiting friends and trying to decide where they want to live next.  They begin by visiting Phoenix where Verona's ex-boss lives with her family.  Her ex-boss is crazy and drunk.  Their visit is entirely uncomfortable and it is obvious that they will never move to Phoenix.  They quickly move on to Tucson where Verona's sister lives.  She is struggling with boyfriends and has an apparent crush on Burt, making Verona seem a bit uncomfortable.  In addition, Verona's sister is always trying to get her to talk about mom and dad, who passed away in an undisclosed manner when they were sort of young.  Verona tries to refrain from the subject, so you know it eventually is going to spill out when she can't take holding it inside anymore.  Tucson really wasn’t a bad place by any means.  Other than the heat, it was not done well enough to make the audience understand why the couple did not choose to live there.  Verona's sister is the only normal human being in the entire film.

Next, Burt and Verona are off to Madison, Wisconsin.  It is there that they will meet up with LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a purist that is a bit off her rocker.  She breast feeds in public, not that there is anything really wrong with that, but it sets the tone for her overall behavior.  She and her husband do not believe in separation from their children.  They hold their children close at all times, even sharing one giant bed without hiding love making from their children.  Talk about scarred for life.  After an evening of insanity it all comes crumbling down and Burt blows up.  It is plainly obvious why Burt and Verona won't settle in Wisconsin.

Next, it is off to Montreal Canada.  Here, Burt and Verona go to meet their college friends, Tom and Munch.  Aside from being existentialists, the couple is rather normal.  Burt and Verona instantly fall in love with the lifestyle in Montreal and are keen on moving there.  It is never really explained why they don't, but it might have to do with the depressing news that they receive whilst they are there.
When Burt's brother calls him panicking, Burt and Verona take off immediately for Miami.  It is there that they console Burt's brother after his wife has left him and his baby girl.  This ultimately leads to Burt's breakdown and some closure between him and Verona, who still refuses to marry Burt.  Their revelations finally lead them to their new home, which is in…

Sam Mendes, most famed for his directorial work of "American Beauty," has falling out of grace with audiences of late.  His works have been scarce and rather unsatisfying, especially given the caliber of "American Beauty."  Since them he has done works such as, "Road to Perdition" and "Jarhead," neither of which were anything spectacular.  I would have to call "Away We Go" Sam's second best work.  It doesn't come even close to the standards of "American Beauty," but it is beyond his other films.  In short, I was saddened that after such great work, Sam has not become a more prominent Hollywood director.

It is difficult to dissect this Blu-ray transfer.  At a simple glance it looks awful.  However, taking into account the filmmakers' intentions makes the film more accurate to its source.  Nevertheless, whether the issue is transfer or the intentions, the image does not look pleasing.  Yes, this is a low-budget film so a high-gloss image is not to be expected.  However, when you have seen what this format is capable of, this film leaves you cold.  The image is entirely washed out.  The brightness is far to high and the contrast is weak, leaving the image looking faded.  The colors go back and forth between vibrant and painfully dull.  Details are washed away, as are textures for the most part.  This leaves the film looking one-dimensional.  The fleshtones are natural, or at least accurate to the city in which the characters are located.  Black levels are good, but disturbed by the high brightness setting.  This makes the blacks look like grays.  Even though the brightness and contrast settings are my biggest concern for the transfer, the end result is that it is faithfully to the original source so I can't really blame the transfer by any means.  Nevertheless, the Blu-ray video presentation is not extremely pleasing eye candy.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which brings out all the issues with the original production sound.  Again, as a low-budget film, it is hard to expect much from the audio.  Still, it does not excuse some of the production faults.  While the transfer is technically competent, the end result is, like the video, not very pleasing.  The surround channels are held in only by a minute bit of ambience, which is totally fine.  However, the front-heavy sound is also constricted to the center channel.  Not only is it just the dialogue in the center channel, but much of the front ambience and music as well as well.  You almost feel like you are going crossed-eye from having to focus on the narrow band of sound emanating from the speaker.  What gets me the most is the quality of the production sound.  Background ambience was horribly edited.  Mismatch ambience and tonal imbalances within the same scene and shots is extremely distracting.  Trust me, the one thing that a sound editor must accomplish, is one cohesive audio track.  When it is easy to notice the dialogue cuts, you failed as a dialogue sound editor.  The LFE channel is very subdued, however, it is faithful to the material being presented.  Again, technically speaking the audio track is competent, which is why the score is higher that you might think after reading this paragraph.  But be forewarned that the production audio is quite atrocious.

The Blu-ray comes with a handful of bonus materials.  The only exclusive to the Blu-ray is BD-Live functionality.  Presented in high-definition are "The Making of 'Away We Go,'" which is self explanatory and "Green Filmmaking," which talks about environmental issues of the filmmaking process.  The only other bonus feature is an audio commentary with Sam Mendes, and writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.  This is a cohesive commentary that provides an enjoyable experience, which is saying a lot coming from someone who doesn't get involved with audio commentaries.

"Away We Go" is a pleasant indie film that has a great cast.  In short, the video and audio quality are technically competent, by way off from audience pleasing.  So please now what you are getting yourself into when getting this Blu-ray.  Aside from that, I would recommend the Blu-ray disc for the film.

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