"Wanderlust": Hollywood Menagerie Keeps Film Fresh

"There's no one way to live our lives," hopes the displaced, adrift couple at the center of Wanderlust. Shopping between the prefab identity options available to them—stressed urban professionalism; suburban McMansion soul death; rural counterculture—George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) are looking to find a social model somewhere in America where they can be true to themselves and each other. And though Wanderlust finally laughs off the real discomforting conclusion that it's edging toward, it's gut-busting funny when mocking their hopeless options. Booted out of Manhattan by the economy then repulsed by a fallback-paycheck opportunity with George's boorish, boastful brother, Rick (Ken Marino) in suburban Atlanta, George and Linda try an alternative: the '60s-style Elysium commune. It's hard to remember a comedy so populated with good character bits, including Kathryn Hahn's damaged-woman-come-to-shelter, whose flashes of anger through her official commune mellowness give glimpses of a grim personal history ("If I wanted my face covered in lies, I would still be in porn") and Elysium's resident Alpha hippie, played by the chameleonic Justin Theroux. There is no comic lead working who has Rudd's flexibility, and Wanderlust brings out a lurking peevishness behind his good-natured shrug of a smile, a peevishness that gradually freezes into a mask of unconcealed disgust. A really great movie might have followed the implications of that disgust—there's no running away from yourself—but the questing Wanderlust ultimately retreats into is a conservative, prefab identity of its own: It is, after all, an Apatow production.

 
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