Wanderlust Takes an Uncomfortable Journey
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2012 24 Feb
DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: February 24, 2012
Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use)
Run Time: 98 min.
Director: David Wain
Actors: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Ken Marino, Alan Alda, Joe Lo Truglio, Michaela Watkins
CAUTION: The following review contains discussion of mature subject matter. Parents please exercise caution with younger readers.
It’s tough to find a romantic comedy that’s both romantic and funny, without content that confuses sex with true love, or gross-out gags with good-natured laughs. Wanderlust, a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston (Horrible Bosses) and Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother), isn’t altogether convincing as a romance but does deliver its share of laughs. However, the laughs are largely in the service of bawdy, R-rated material that makes the film difficult to recommend.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) are a couple who buy a New York studio apartment (“micro-loft” in the amusing parlance of the couple’s eager-but-cynical real estate agent) then abruptly find themselves without jobs or a source of income. After an attempt to live with George’s volatile and voluble brother Rick (Ken Marino, who also co-wrote Wanderlust, as well as 2008’s Role Models, both directed by David Wain) goes bad, the duo drives off, pulls off the road and winds up at Elysium, a commune led by Seth (Justin Theroux, Megamind) and populated by nudists and ex-hippies with a what’s-mine-is-yours mentality.
It’s no surprise when the couple, initially relieved and heartened by their experience with the commune, learns that the expectation of sharing extends not only to George’s car, but to his wife as well. The smarmy Seth has his eye on her, and it’s only a matter of time before he beds Linda off-screen and breaks the news to George. Already disillusioned, George decides that the answer to Linda’s unfaithfulness is to sleep with another woman (Malin Akerman, Couples Retreat) in the commune.
By that point the movie is halfway over, and you might find yourself wondering what happened to the rather quirky but amusing comedy of the first 45 minutes. The couple’s experimentation with drugs at Elysium tracks the movie’s downward trajectory. Scenes of the characters hallucinating aren’t very funny, and the movie starts to rely increasingly on the nudists at the commune for its outrageous jokes and situations. Needless to say, a little of that goes a long way. A storyline about a developer who wants to bulldoze Elysium plays like an afterthought, although it gives the film’s characters one more chance to take off their clothes as part of a protest in front of local news cameras (most of the body parts are digitally obscured for the news broadcast).
It comes as no surprise when the first name to appear in the end credits is that of producer Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids). Wanderlust is right in his wheelhouse—centered on a man in the midst of a romantic and professional crisis who makes a series of bad decisions before figuring out the way to happiness. To conclude that the characters made the right decision is beside the point. We’re not invested in these characters or their sense of fulfillment. The narrative is just an excuse for a series of gags, some bordering on and tipping over into outrageous territory. When it doesn’t get too close to that territory, Wanderlust is mildly amusing, but it goes too far too often and leaves viewers with nothing to take away.
You’ll forget the laughs within a few hours, but the stuff that’s bothersome will linger. Why put yourself through that?
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; multiple “f” words; crude sexual references and anatomical references; a middle finger is extended; other foul language; George speaks to a mirror rehearsing several explicit versions of a sexual come-on.
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking and several scenes of drug use; drug-related hallucinations.
- Sex/Nudity: George and Linda lay on a bed and kiss, then fall asleep; male and female rear and frontal nudity; man in briefs jumps into a lake, and others say they’re skinny dipping; a woman says her menstrual cycle has started again; George rolls off Linda in bed; Rick grabs his crotch and makes a crude gesture; Rick’s wife tells Linda she owns a sex toy; a woman alludes to past involvement in pornography; Linda and others appear topless, or completely nude, on camera for a news story, where their anatomy is pixeled out for broadcast; George is shown sitting on the toilet; Seth tells George he made love to Linda; George decides to have sex with Eva; a wine tasting event for nudists; an image of people having sex.
- Violence/Crime: A man is hit by a car after he walks into traffic; a man smashes a plate in anger; George falls to the ground when a roof he’s working on collapses.
- Marriage/Religion: George and Linda try an “open marriage” lifestyle; Marissa laments Rick’s affairs, and eventually confronts him over his actions; Seth refers to God as “her”; a pregnant woman tells George it might be divinely inspired that he visited her.
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