alan alda, comedy, david wain, hbo, hippies, jennifer aniston, joe lo truglio, ken marino, kerri kenney silver, lauren ambrose, linda lavin, malin akerman, michael ian black, michaela watkins, paul rudd, paul theroux, wanderlust
Review: B (RENT IT)
BELIEVE IT OR not, it’s been fourteen years since Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd first co-starred in “The Object of My Affection,” a bold rom-com (for its day) about a New Yorker named Nina who falls for her gay best friend George. By now, Aniston and Rudd, two of the most prolific comic actors on screen, are masters of the straight face, that concealment of laughter and/or derision. “Wanderlust” (directed by David Wain of “Role Models” and “Wet Hot American Summer”) is a reunion of sorts, both for Aniston and Rudd, as well as for members of the ‘90s-era MTV sketch troupe, The State, such as Kerri Kenney-Silver (“Reno 911”), Michael Ian Black and Joe Lo Truglio. (Stay for the outtakes and see the actors lose it.) This time around, Rudd plays it straight as the grounding force in a comedy about a hippie commune in north Georgia populated by kooks, yogis, and nudists. Because Aniston delivers a comedy seemingly every full moon, her flicks are a bit like pistachios: only one in a batch is truly savory and “Wanderlust” is that flick, affectionately light-hearted and genuinely funny.
As George (again) and Linda, Rudd and Aniston are New Yorkers (again) struggling to make it in a city later defined by three things: “Stress. Blackberries. Sleeping Pills.” Wain’s comedy opens with the couple, perfectly matched as a pair of motor-mouth Manhattanites, buying what their realtor (Linda Lavin) calls a “microloft” in the West Village. There’s barely room for them to lower their Murphy bed. But George abruptly loses his job just as Linda’s pitch to HBO to buy her dead-serious documentary falls through. A pregnant exec at HBO shoots down Linda’s project about penguins with testicular cancer, telling her: “We do violence and heartache. But it’s sexy.” Off the couple goes to visit George’s brother Rick (played by Ken Marino, also the film’s co-writer) and zombie-like wife (a scene-stealing Michaela Watkins) who tells Aniston at her fancy margarita mixer: “I have a little Sky Mall problem.” Their pathetic existence within a McMansion sends the couple back to the hippie commune, Elysium, which they stumbled upon only nights before. They’re taken to the leader, Seth (an unshaven Paul Theroux), who waxes philosophic on veganism, anti-materialism, but when he sings the praises of free love and wife-swapping, it’s really Aniston he wants.
Apart from the commune’s patriarch (an unshaven and always likable Alan Alda), there are some great supporting cast members, namely Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”) and Malin Akerman (“Couple’s Retreat”), the latter of whom has her eyes on Rudd. Elysium’s motto? “We share everything here.” Laughs aside – and there are plenty – “Wanderlust” is diagetically deranged: this urban couple is hardly the type to last long in a commune, even if it is an “intentional community” as Seth terms it, and the film goes on long after the thrill of “Wanderlust” is gone. If drama’s pitfall is sentimentality, the death of any comedy is sheer stupidity and there are a few truly dumb moments in “Wanderlust,” especially the pep-talk Rudd gives himself before trying to even the score with Aniston-Theroux and bedding (but blowing it) with Akerman. Much of the comedy also is a transparent opportunity to see Aniston in jean cut-offs, cowboy boots, and camisoles. Call it (Bob) Marley and Me. Neverthless, the couple’s choice between deadening conformity and free-spirited escapism rings true.