Rated R for having that Stella kind of humor. There's an aggressive amount of nudity, often used for running gags. Similarly, there's drug use throughout and pretty intense language. There's a lot of talk of sexual things running throughout the movie. It just has it all. If you've seen a David Wain film, you kind of know what you are getting into. If you haven't, it's a little edgier than a traditional raunchy comedy. R.
DIRECTOR: David Wain
Fun fact that I learned while cancelling my Peacock account: It costs $4.99 to get a premium account with ads. It costs $5.00 to get it without ads. So we sat through Wanderlust with ads for practically no reason. I also need to stop watching movies just because podcasts talked about them. It's not like I regretted watching this movie. It's just that they talked about it so in-depth on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes that I felt like I needed to watch it. And then I watched it and I'm 90% sure that I probably saw this with my Blockbuster Online account a decade ago. These are all stories that really don't matter, except for the small demographic of people that I'm saving from ads on Peacock.
See, I thought that this was a Judd Apatow film that I hadn't seen. I love me some David Wain, but I also acknowledge that David Wain isn't always for me. But the podcast folks were talking about this movie like Apatow had directed it and I know that Apatow makes an amazing movie. I actually can't think of an Apatow film that I don't really enjoy. And while I enjoyed Wanderlust for the second time, I also know that it has those elements of David Wain's comedy that kind of turned me off from Stella Comedy. Like James Gunn, David Wain loves to take things to uncomfortable levels. He's almost parodying the raunchy comedy by making a comedy so raunchy that it is almost uncomfortable to talk about. Now, Wanderlust isn't Caligula. If anything, it is just a bit of silliness with a lot of nudity and some moments of pushing the envelope. But something that happens in David Wain movies --even in my beloved Wet Hot American Summer --is that often these films don't really risk getting vulnerable. I know. I won't shut up about vulnerability. But when a movie is afraid to bare its underside to you (even though we saw a lot of undersides in this movie), it really feels more like a collection of jokes on a theme rather than a cohesive plot.
It also has a weird choice in casting. Part of me imagines what the pre-production process of this film was. Paul Rudd in Wet Hot American Summer wasn't exactly known yet. He was a comic genius who had a few major moments, but nothing that would eventually lead him to be declared the Sexiest Man of the Year or to become a Hollywood blockbusting superhero. But by 2012, the writing was probably on the wall. Considering that the former members of The State were their own motley crew, always maintaining a punk rock underground fame, unburdened by mainsteam celebrity. But Paul Rudd could headline a movie. This ultimately makes him the straight man in a film with over-the-top characters. That's kind of funny because it's Rudd who makes me laugh the most in this movie, especially when he's psyching himself up in the mirror. Similarly, there's Jennifer Aniston. I don't necessarily have an opinion on Jennifer Aniston. Like Tom Cruise, her presence penetrates the fourth wall pretty hard. It takes a lot for me to sit back and just enjoy a film without thinking, "Hey, that's Jennifer Aniston." And because she's so pretty and so famous, it just feels like me wondering how she got involved with this group. She doesn't really get particularly hilarious moments because so many characters are busy being funny.
There's something here that makes me really want to like the message of this movie, though. I mean, I don't necessarily love it. But I intellectually want to latch onto the film. From an outside perspective, Linda and George should flee civilization. They have been so conditioned by capitalism that success and happiness exclusively come from money. Even Linda, who jumps from career to career that parallel her hobbies, resents George who cannot provide such an insane standard of living to safely care for them. When they arive at Elysium, there is this free attitude. If I have to state it, you clearly don't know me in person. I'm aggressively wired to follow rules. If I break the rules, it's because there's an overwhelming moral good that I'm high horsing every time I get a chance. I'm saying this because I would never do drugs, especially with strangers. I'm also kind of wired to think that drugs won't solve problems. But there is a secret thread of bohemianism in me, waiting to explode and that I relate to in the movie. If I had to say anything, I would be George without the secret drug habit or the willingness to sleep with attractive women who weren't my wife.
But the movie, for some reason, feels the need to make George the bad guy. I can't help the way I view things sometimes because I tend to be sympathetic to male protagonists. I know, it's not healthy. But I bonded with George really quickly, but couldn't identify with Linda / Jennifer Aniston easily. Yeah, he's got issues. He's clearly being tempted to do things that would be destructive to his marriage. That whole Eva thing? Yeah, that's a clear trap. But George, for the most part, did a lot of the right things. When he was being seduced by Eva, he immediately ran to his wife and told her what had happened. Sure, he did it in a cowardly way that kind of allowed him to suss out the situation, but it was still the right call. Then, when Linda wanted to stay, despite his clear indication that this place was a nightmare, she blamed him for her affair with Seth. She claimed it was his idea to have affairs. If anything, she was the one who made the call on extramarital affairs. It felt like the movie really wanted to make everything Paul Rudd's fault, despite the fact that he just acts like a punching bag for the whole thing.
But maybe it is funnier that way. George is pretty hapless throughout. As an audience watching this absurd scenario, probably relating to the way that George and Linda are stuck in the expectations of white capitalist America, we know that George is boiling to an emotional disaster. By starting with is enthusiasm for crushing grapes with a naked Joe La Truglio, we know what his expectations for Elysium would be versus what he actually receives. And the fact that George and Linda's experiences are so polarized makes him a sympathetic hero. But the movie never really ends with Linda acknowledging that she secretly wanted to have an affair with the paper-thin Seth. Linda kind of never has a strong come to Jesus moment. Okay, that's not exactly true. There's a subtle change in her when she's in the diner with Carvin. But I wanted her to acknowledge her sin versus placing everything at the feet of George, who honestly has a point about how supportive he is.
At the end of the day, it's a funny movie. It's not perfectly funny. I know why I probably forgot that I watched this movie before. But a David Wain movie is often a pretty good time. There are times that I feel like he wants to let loose a little harder than he actually does, but that's okay as well. It's good, but extremely forgettable.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.