Film Review: Wanderlust
● By Justin Buettner
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) find themselves unemployed and over-extended on their recently purchased New York City studio apartment which forces them to move down to Atlanta to live with George’s horrible older brother. Along their way they stumble upon a small commune called Elysium. After spending the night, George and Linda decide to give the stress free life of simple living among their new hippie friends a try. Trouble arises when one embraces the lifestyle while the other yearns to have their old life back.
Watching Wanderlust you will be struck by the feeling that something is missing. After reflecting for a few moments it will become clear, the movie is missing a message. The film paints in such black and white strokes in the beginning showing corporate and city life as just flat out bad. In turn, when the film introduces all the hippies from the Elysium commune it paints these people as inherently good despite their wacky ways. By the end, the movie has turned the hippies to be bad too, so what’s the point? Ultimately what is the movie trying to say? That message is very muddled at best. In addition the characters don’t change, at least not any meaningful way. The reactions of the main characters are rather odd too, so they become unrelatable as the movie pushes forward.
Wanderlust also misses some great opportunities to make some hilarious scenes memorable. In one scene where Aniston’s character takes hallucinatory drugs, the movie quickly moves past this part where if filmmakers were both brave and creative they could have used this scene to push the comedy to a new level. The same could be said for the scene when Rudd’s character attempts free love for the first time. There was ample opportunity to expand the situation and take comedic chances, but sadly the movie just didn’t have those type of aspirations. In short, the movie doesn’t push the envelope enough to be great. Instead it’s a long string of easy hippie jokes where a few might make you chuckle but nothing is ever inspired enough to make you laugh out loud.
The cast does fine with what they have to work with. Aniston and Rudd are both very likable actors. Rudd’s last film, My Idiot Brother, showcased how easy it is for him to carry a film and exactly how likable he really is. The fact that Wanderlust is not a complete failure may be a tribute to the strength of the cast.
David Wain, who both wrote and directed Wanderlust, had the ingredients to make a really funny movie. There definitely is timely material in the script that deals with job loss at a time when it is certainly topical. The story as a whole never really quite found its voice or message and the film always felt restrained in the wrong places. Apparently the filmmakers already have an unrated, unrestrained edit they plan to release on DVD and blue-ray. This may be a rare occasion where the extended cut really does improve the movie.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.