Wanderlust is a little-known and selectively-released comedy which ticks all the right boxes. Starring Paul Rudd as George, and Jennifer Aniston as wife Lynda, this mid-life crisis fuelled comic hit feels real, as well as entertaining.
The movie opens depicting the ‘perfect’ set-up: Rudd and Aniston are a couple aspiring to the New York dream, and the lifestyle that comes along with it. After buying a micro-loft in the heart of the city, the market crashes, and the pair are left destitute. These themes resonate strongly with today’s economic climate, yet the film subtly includes the socio-political references, without too much overt criticism to detract from the focal comedy elements of the film.
On a drive to Atlanta to see if his brother can secure him a job at his firm, George and Lynda stumble across a hippie commune, or ‘intentional community’, and this is where the story really starts. Rudd is, as ever, a loveable, comic genius, with brilliant timing and is never afraid to improvise a scene. Aniston is the real surprise here though, as she finally moves away from being permanently typecast as a ‘Rachel’ and morphs into a quite brilliant actress. Her character has a depth she is not normally allowed to explore in her usual rom-com roles, and she surprises with some expert comic know-how and the ability to show a whole range of acting credentials.
‘Elysium’, the intentional community, is a fantastic little piece of almost-paradise. The hippies are all great, (my favourites being Jordan Peele as Rodney and Kathryn Hahn’s Karen); and display a whole range of personalities, rather than just trippy-hippy stereotypes. The typical hippie-types are also present, but the range of actors and interpretations brings a freshness to the Elysium community, and makes everything that much fresher. Of course, being an Apatow creation, there are some silly elements, but rather than ridiculous, these really contribute to the vibe of this indie flick. There is a wonderfully absurd acid-trip montage featuring Aniston which no one would have ever expected of her; and a fantastic monologue from Rudd (the now-infamous ‘Mirror Scene’). Seth, played by Justin Theroux is also a great character, and expertly delivers several comic moments to the fore, particularly in the scene where we discover that the Elysium home has doorways but no doors…
Outside of the Elysium community, George’s brother Rick (Ken Marino) and his wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins) are also fantastic comic characters, and their son raises a few laughs too. The obvious contrasts between the two lifestyles depicted are really fun and over the top, but also make a statement about the choices our central couple make: both are extremes, and in this world we have to find our happy medium.
This film is ultimately a clever, current and crazy character-based comedy, with some great turns from actors you wouldn’t normally expect to see reading such a script. The cast work well together, Rudd and Aniston bouncing particularly well off one another. The supporting ensemble (Alan Alda, Joe Lo Truglio, Kerri Kenney) is witty, silly and satirical, presenting a well-rounded comic creation from Apatow, usually so fixated on stoner-based flicks. Don’t get me wrong, these hippies certainly trip, but the overall message is fresh, new and totally unexpected.