30 Day Film Challenge Day 12 - A Film by Your Least Favorite Director
Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009)
Before I start piling onto Mendes, I really do enjoy Road to Perdition. Not only is it a solid gangster picture, but it has one of my favorite Tom Hanks performances along with a slew of others (Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Paul Newman, to name a few). There’s a focus and assuredness to that film in both its style and tone that I haven’t found in his other work. American Beauty’s incredibly simplistic in its character studies and wildly full of its own belief system (Ricky Fitts submarines the entire deal). With Revolutionary Road, I felt distant from both DiCap and Winslet which tells me that the narrative had difficulty moving from literature to the screen (the first season of Mad Men delves into similar thematic territory). Haven’t seen Jarhead so I can’t comment on that.
Away We Go may be his “worst” film in that it has absolutely no focus. Character moments and insights are set aside for strangely overt and dare I say cutesy humor. The whole story is built off of a series of contrivances that, again, may work better as a short story (the script’s written by essayist Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida), but fail as a coherent narrative. Why should this couple go to people they barely know before they see their best friends and Krasinski’s brother-in-law? And what lessons do these people teach them? That parenting is weird and wacky? The cast is fantastic, but I feel that they’re ultimately wasted on both poor material and an unfocused director.
I guess I picked Mendes due to how disproportionate I feel his actual talent is versus his general acclaim. Other contenders include: Robert Rodriguez, Michael Bay, Peter Jackson, Tim Burton. And I outright love two or three of Burton’s films, but he’s been a shell of his former shelf for about a decade now.