Wanderlust marks the second time I've seen a fully naked man in a major motion picture this year, and it's only February. I'm beginning to think this is a trend that's here to stay. It makes sense in context, sort of: A winemaking nudist/novelist (Joe Lo Truglio) is running toward a straight-laced couple frantically backing up in their car, telling them, no, no, the bed & breakfast/hippie commune they're looking to stay at for the night is this way! The audience was howling with laughter at the screening I attended, but the moment is filled with warmth and tenderness, which makes it more than just a cheap gag.
Wanderlust is the latest comedy from David Wain, the director of Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer. There's plenty of gross-out humor and crude moments, but really what he's given us is a sweet story about lifestyle and relationships. All the characters both embody and transcend their stereotypes, which is the key to making the film so hilarious and successful.
We begin with Linda and George (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) attempting to live the dream in a tiny and overpriced Manhattan apartment. Everyone is drinking triple lattes and living lives of quiet desperation; it's very modern-day Thoreau. The couple's rise and fall in New York is the stuff of swift, spot-on social commentary; within minutes, market forces send them packing to Atlanta. On the way to Georgia, the couple pulls off at an organic produce stand that also claims to be a bed & breakfast, and it is here that they encounter the naked wino and so much more hilariousness. They spend a magical night at the commune, banging drums and getting high. The group's aging hippy founder, Carvin (Alan Alda), tells them that money buys nothing. "You mean metaphorically, right?" George says. He doesn't quite get hippy life, but it's growing on him. Their charismatic and somewhat shifty leader, Seth (Justin Theroux), invites them to stay forever, and this plants a seed in their heads.
The plan was to stay with George's brother Rick (Ken Marino, who also co-wrote the script), who has made a generous living selling porta-johns to construction sites. He plays the kind of guy who thinks it's charming to be a complete douche all the time with perfectly exaggerated accuracy. His wife, Marissa (Michaela Watkins), embodies her role as a Real Housewife of Atlanta with increasing incredulity. At one point, she tells Linda, "I read an article that said if I keep smiling, I can trick my mind into believing that I'm happy." It's such good writingand just watch how Marissa lets the horror of her situation barely slip out of the corners of her lips.
The couple can't take Atlanta anymore, and in desperation, they head back for a two-week trial period at the "intentional community," which for them exists as a respite between the horrors of fast-paced Manhattan life and the bleak reality of the Atlanta suburbs. The movie finds a good balance between making fun of hippies and exploring their virtues. Rudd and Aniston are almost the straight men here, although Aniston does have an insane drug trip somewhere in the middle, so, you know, straight-ish.
Why do people hate Jennifer Aniston? I think she's funny and pretty, even if she is too small and her tan makes no sense. Her face has really come a long way since her 1993 film debut in Leprechaun! Paul Rudd is just untouchable. He always seems as though he's playing himself, and I mean that in a good way.
Wanderlust is incredibly funny, but I particularly admired the way it dealt with real-world issues, such as: What does it mean to be happy? How do you balance making money with living an authentic life? And how do you define a marriage?
As someone who would genuinely love living at a rural commune in Georgia, I think I missed out on some crucial jokes, like when a horse walks into the couple's bedroom because hippies don't believe in doors. What, is that weird? Or when the woman who has recently given birth brings the placenta and umbilical cord still attached to the breakfast table because the couple is waiting for it to fall away naturally. Is this a gross-out moment? After I was born at home aided by midwives, my mother buried my placenta under a pine tree in the backyard and now that tree is 30 feet tall and I have psychic powers, so...I don't know why everybody was laughing.
Wanderlust continues at the Village 6.