Current Weather
The Spy FM

‘Wanderlust’: A Zany Blast From The Communal Past

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
February 24, 2012

In sophisticated comedy, what’s funny is the tension between proper manners and the nasty or sexy subtext. Whereas in low comedy, there are no manners, and the nasty or sexy subtext is right there on the surface.

And then there’s Wanderlust, in which the subtext is blasted through megaphones — the characters say so insanely much you want to scream. The satire is as broad as a battleship and equally bombarding. But it takes guts to do a comedy this big without gross-out slapstick, and the writers and the actors are all in.

Amid the zanies, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston have more or less the straight roles, but they’re so innocent they’re borderline crazy. They play George and Linda — he’s in finance, she’s an aspiring documentary filmmaker — who sink their money into an itty-bitty Manhattan apartment and go bust.

As they’re en route to Atlanta to move in with George’s crassly materialistic older brother and his suffering wife, their GPS sends them to the Elysium Bed and Breakfast — a hippie-dippy farming collective out of a time capsule. We’re talking long-haired women in tie-dyed skirts, atop white horses beside tepees. They smoke a lot of dope and rap — not hip-hop rapping but, “Let’s form a truth circle and, you know, rap” rapping.

You say it sounds like a bunch of stereotypes — and 40-year-old stereotypes? The defense concedes the point. It’s not fresh terrain. But this tribe of hippies is also a tribe of marvelously inventive comic actors doing a fair amount of inspired improvisation and grooving on the mindset. Alan Alda plays the commune’s last remaining founder, who rolls around in a wheelchair fulminating against capitalism and, in one drawn-out scene with Rudd and Aniston, explaining Elysium’s policy in favor of free love.

Holding jokes a beat too long — two beats, three — that’s a big technique of director David Wain, who co-wrote Wanderlust with Ken Marino, and it works because you get to watch Rudd writhe. Rudd is not the subtlest straight man in movies, but he might be the best. His deadpan is never dead — the body is twitching too madly, working to project easygoingness while his insides clench. And if Aniston remains a sitcom actress who overworks her mushy smile, that mushiness works beautifully for the impressionable, overeager Linda.

George and Linda flee back to Elysium after a nightmarish stay with George’s brother, whereupon they learn how the place really works. Malin Ackerman plays the willowy blond Eva, who unceremoniously offers herself to George, who’s still smarting after someone drives his car into the lake. More eager than Eva is Seth, the hairy hippie he-man played by Justin Theroux, who is mentally undressing Linda from the moment he lays eyes on her.

Theroux was barnstorming as a psychotic wizard in last year’s maligned Your Highness, and he’s just as inventive as Seth, homing in on the character’s self-righteous cool and making beautiful music with the other actors, among them Kerri Kenney-Silver as a trippy nonstop talker and rubber-faced Kathryn Hahn as a woman whose feelers are way oversensitive to bad vibes.

Wanderlust has a bum last 10 minutes, a lame coda and inadvisable outtakes over the closing credits. The misses are, frankly, big — but not nearly so big that they bust your groove. The movie renews your faith in communal comedy. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM Living On Earth

Living On Earth

Living on Earth with Steve Curwood is the weekly environmental news and information program distributed by Public Radio International.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM On Being

On Being

On Being engages listeners across the spectrum of belief and non-belief in conversation about life's deepest questions. From autism to the ethics of torture, Krista and her guests reach beyond the headlines to probe faith and meaning, ethics and new ways of being, amidst the political, ecological, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center