Finding themselves both out of work after investing in a small yet expensive micro-loft located in Manhattan’s West Village, George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) decide to up sticks. Stumbling upon a hippie commune after an unsuccessful stay with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino) and his alcoholic wife, Marissa (a scene-stealing Michaela Watkins), the couple decide to stay on at “Elysium” in the hope of finding themselves.
While they initially embrace this more simple way of life, they soon hit a few stumbling blocks, and are forced to confront issues (such as infidelity) that they never imagined would come between them. Whether it’s the cracks that begin to appear when they start dabbling in free-living, or the sympathies and frustrations that begin to develop for their new friends, Wanderlust – at times – teeters on the edge of some big issues. As we’re all aware, life can’t all be ayahuasca tea and no-holds-barred nudity.
These heavy issues are all relative, though, as screenwriters David Wain and Marino (both playing double-duty as director and actor respectively) refuse to let the narrative become bogged down under the masses of issues bubbling underneath. The script is light on its feet and quick in its pace. Not long have George and Linda been introduced before they’re deep into the core of the commune. It’s better this way, and allows us to simply go with flow, rather than inspecting every single detail.
Wain and Marino clearly know what they want from the film, and they’re not in the business of throwing in unnecessary sub-plots purely to shake things up. While there are many characters with their own issues and traits, each arc is satisfyingly bite-sized, so they never overstay their welcome. From the residents of Elysium (with Kathryn Hahn and Lauren Ambrose as noticeable stand-outs) to Aniston and Rudd, the entire cast is on top form. Aniston in particular has found herself in a role that’s perhaps the best of her cinematic career, playing off Rudd in such a naturally befuddled way that makes their incredible adventures oddly believable.
It’s a refreshing approach. The comedy elements fit together effortlessly – something very rarely achieved in the genre – but there’s more to it than that. While it may all be comedic on the surface, there’s enough support to ensure the ride is much better than you might expect. It must be said that towards the end, once the film’s settled into its groove, it looses some of its mojo and and the gags often fall flat. But, thanks to the determination of all involved and the goodwill it built up in the first half, it’s impossible not to come away satisfied.
While the inconsistencies bubbling away occasionally harm Wanderlust’s ability to shine, the humour, popular culture references and inspired use of quick-cut editing prevail. Wanderlust might not have much to offer that’s new, but what it does have is plenty to keep you wrapped up in its zany world. After all, it’s a comedy film, and that’s exactly what it does best.