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Director Mendes Has Another Beauty of a Film

"Away We Go" is way cool.

Check it out for Maya Rudolph's extraordinary breakout performance. The gifted sketch comedian from "Saturday Night Live" is warm, subtle and substantive as Verona, pregnant and in a relationship with a man (John Krasinski) who loves her.

And Krasinski, romantic sales rep Jim Halpert on TV's superb "The Office," moves into movie-star ozone as Burt, an easy-going, unambitious guy ready to become a dad.

A road picture of sorts (it's a first screenplay from Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida), "Away We Go" is about finding a place to call home, taking on the responsibility of parenthood, and that rare unconditional love. You'll love this movie unconditionally.

The two young actors are guided by Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for "American Beauty" and most recently directed his wife, Kate Winslet, in the scathing "Revolutionary Road."

"Away We Go" follows the path of a relationship, sensual and sensitive, that has commitment, mutual respect, humor and honesty. Verona and Burt have been living a kind of extended college life — funky old car, creaky abode, working blithely from home, a good distance from parents.

Now, baby daughter on the way, it's time to grow up. Who wouldn't want a mom like Rudolph's Verona — sensible, non-judgmental observer of the world?

And Krasinski, who shows off an on-the-nose Casey Kasem impression, is convincing as someone who'll become the dad crawling out of bed in the middle of the night, comforting a wailing 2-month-old.

There's a universality to the movie, touching that experience when youthful decisions often turn into regret (this couple sees it in friends and relatives).

There's also the fear of becoming your parents. A visit to Burt's mom and dad, played by the marvelous Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels, results in one of those disastrous moments when parents surprise with their own self-absorption.

O'Hara has the one remark in the film referring to Rudolph's mixed-race ancestry (she's the daughter of the late pop singer Minnie Riperton) and its effect on the baby. A jaw-dropping moment, for sure, and Rudolph's retort is priceless.

Under Mendes' direction, Rudolph and Krasinski and the rest of the cast blend effortlessly, from a bonkers Allison Janney living a boozed existence in Phoenix to Maggie Gyllenhaal's professor and new-age mom who believes in "The Three S's: No Separation! No Sugars! No Strollers!"

Mendes, who also helmed such big Hollywood films as "Jarhead" and "Road to Perdition," focused in "Revolutionary Road" on another couple searching for a place in the world. Where Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio fell into marital disaster, Krasinski and Rudolph, you know, will grow closer and more supportive.

Beautifully photographed on a variety of locations by the great Ellen Kuras, whose concert films — from the Rolling Stones' "Shine a Light" to "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" and "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" — brought something fresh to that genre, brings something vivid to "Away We Go." It's a beautiful motion picture to watch.

This is a unique, insightful tale about relationships and finding a place to belong.

With that, away you go to the movies for "Away We Go." Way to go.

"Away We Go." Rated: R. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. 4 stars.

To find out more about Lee Grant and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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