FILM REVIEW: Wanderlust (15)

A cash-strapped New York couple discover a gentler pace of life away from the rat race in David Wain’s raucous comedy of ill manners.

Co-written by Wain and Ken Marino, who nabs a showy role as a portaloo salesman with no social graces, Wanderlust pokes gentle fun at a materialistic modern society reliant on technology to forge connections.

In the film’s hedonistic nirvana of Elysium, an “intentional community” on the outskirts of Georgia, residents live off the land, share everything including their bedfellows, and show appreciation by rubbing together index fingers and thumbs.

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“It’s much less aggressive than clapping,” coos a hippie chick.

Nudists, partner-swapping and memory loss provide potty-mouthed running jokes.

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, who previously starred in the 1998 comedy The Object Of My Affection, are an attractive pairing, trading designer labels and blackberries for hessian kaftans and didgeridoos.

Their comic timing is sharp, wringing laughs from a script that doesn’t serve them well and trades largely in stereotypes including a heavily pregnant earth mother (Lauren Ambrose), who intends to serve her placenta as soup to the flock.

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Upwardly mobile George (Rudd) and wife Linda (Aniston) are rocked by his unexpected unemployment on the same day her ill-judged documentary about a penguin with testicular cancer is rejected by HBO.

Handing back the keys to their compact and bijou micro-loft in New York’s swanky West Village, the lovebirds begrudgingly head to Georgia to live with George’s crass brother, Rick (Marino), and his long-suffering wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins).

“I read this article that if you keep smiling, you trick your brain into believing you’re happy,” she grimaces.

En route, George and Linda make a pit stop at Elysium, where the carefree ways of charismatic guru Seth (Justin Theroux), bumbling founder Carvin (Alan Alda) and naturist winemaker Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio) are a tonic.

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“It’s not like we’re signing a lease. We can leave whenever we want,” smirks George encouragingly. Over time, Linda blossoms and the lovers ponder the repercussions when yoga devotee Eva (Malin Akerman) makes it clear she would like to sleep with George.

Wanderlust is mildly amusing, with a couple of laugh out loud moments courtesy of Watkins’s woman scorned.

Wain’s haphazard film doesn’t hang together as a fluid, coherent narrative - it’s essentially a series of hit and miss skits, including a ludicrous slow-motion stampede of nudists that fills the screen with gently bouncing flesh.

Rudd largely keeps his clothes on but Aniston sheds her inhibitions in one scene to make a stand against a property developer’s bulldozer, her blushes spared by pixelated news footage of the incident.

“You’re like a topless Norma Rae!” gasps George.

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The underlying message about free love trumping expensive possessions is undermined by a lacklustre, contrived resolution.

By Damon Smith


Released: March 2 (UK & Ireland), 84 mins

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