In America, you have to be for something or against it. Democrat or Republican, North or South, hawk or pacifist. At one end of the scale you might find a man in a golf shirt driving a Lincoln 4×4 between his various mistresses while his frail, slutty wife drinks herself into a stupor in front of their 65″ plasma. At the other end, you’ll find a gang of nudist, vegan winemakers practicing free love on a ranch commune in Georgia. New Yorkers can sit on the fence: working for major corporations while living in “micro-loft” apartments and buying locally produced groceries. But what happens when your company goes bust and you can’t afford to live in The Village anymore? You have to choose: are you with the guy driving the Navigator to his lucrative Portaloo company? Or are you with the free-lovin’, hummus-dippin’ hippies?
This is the central premise of Wanderlust, David Wain’s latest creation starring the louche and sparkly-eyed Paul Rudd, and the still-somehow-smiling Jennifer Aniston. When George and Linda’s NYC dream comes crashing down around them they are forced to move to Atlanta to live with George’s jockish, unbearably “American” brother, Rick (played by co-writer Ken Marino). On route they stop off at a roadside ranch called Elysian to rest their heads, but discover themselves captivated by the free-spirited and light-hearted community of oddballs that resides there. After a few days under his brother’s thumb, George decides they should return to the ranch and allow their spirits to truly wander free for the first time. What follows is a hilarious if not entirely original take on America’s modern day hippie subculture – nudity, peyote and all – and what happens when middle-class people try to embrace it.
David Wain is probably best known these days as the creator of Role Models – another charming and funny Paul Rudd vehicle – but he was also a key proponent of the wonderful 90s sketch troupe The State, and co-collaborators pop up all over this film. Similarly, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd spent years together on the set of Friends; and Aniston’s current beau Justin Theroux stars as Seth, the talisman and lothario of the commune. In fact the only person that doesn’t have an obvious connection is Malin Akerman; and the reasons for inviting her along are self-evident.
I labour this point because of the old adage, “you only get out of it what you put into it”. If you put a gaggle of like-minded, familiar, and hysterical friends in an idyllic, summertime location and set a camera rolling, you’ll make something hysterical and charming. This film isn’t going to stick in your mind because of a stirring and original narrative or heart-wrenching lead performance; it’s going to stick there because it is just good fun, plain and simple. It is also hilarious: the mixture of breezy ad-libbing, masterful comic timing, and a brilliantly observant script combining to make the most dismissive viewer chuckle.
Still not convinced? Well, this film has the best cameo appearance since Bill Murray in Zombieland. Now you have to watch it.