Directed by David Wain
Screenplay by David Wain, Ken Marino
Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn, Alan Alda
How long is Wanderlust? 98 minutes.
What is Wanderlust rated? R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use.
The free love lifestyle has never been so entertaining.
In 2001, comic-turned-director David Wain gathered a bunch of his friends and headed to an old summer camp in upstate New York and filmed one of the most hilarious and absurd comedies ever made. Wet Hot American Summer, about a group of counselors on the last day of summer camp, has become a cult classic which features pre-breakout performances from Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks. Now, Wain has assembled another outstanding cast of actors for Wanderlust. Though the result is not as brilliant as his first film, it is a solid comedy with several terrific performances.
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are a New York couple that are dying to be as hip as the people around them. When the film opens, we see them debating whether or not to buy an apartment since that’s what people their age do. The micro-loft (i.e. 400 square foot studio apartment) is going to stretch them pretty thin financially, but they figure it’ll be worth it. Soon after they move in, they realize that it is significantly smaller than they originally thought, but, hey, they’re living in New York City!
Things get worse when George’s financial investment firm gets investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and he finds himself out of a job. At the same time, Linda’s pitch to HBO about her horrifically depressing documentary (involving penguins with testicular cancer) goes very poorly. It becomes clear that they can’t afford the fancy micro-loft and must move to Georgia to stay with George’s obnoxious, McMansion-owning brother, Rick (Ken Marino), until they get back on their feet.
On the drive to Georgia, they come across a small bed and breakfast called Elysium which is, in fact, a commune, er, intentional community inhabited by a collection of extremely welcoming (and strange) people. At Elysium, everyone shares everything: clothes, cars, food, lovers (more on that later). Initially, George and Linda are dismissive of the lifestyle (in small part due to an unabashed nudist played by Joe Lo Truglio), but soon they realize that the New York way of living was eating them alive and that they were no longer enjoying life. They decide to stay at Elysium, but the thin façade of paradise soon melts away.
The movie’s cast is absolutely brilliant, with some of the funniest characters in recent memory. Rudd gives yet another hilarious performance, possibly one of his best yet. Looking back at his role in Wet Hot American Summer, it’s a shame it took him so long to become a full-fledged star. There are some moments in Wanderlust where Rudd must have disgusted himself as much as the rest of the cast with his comedic riffing (the soon-to-be-classic “mirror scene” being one of them). Aniston does her best to keep up with Rudd and the other actors, but she’s out of her league. Last summer’s Horrible Bosses was a smart career move for Aniston (and a surprising performance, to be sure), but this is just not her style of comedy and it becomes apparent very early on.
The true star of the movie is Justin Theroux who plays Seth, Elysium’s alpha-male and leader. Theroux, who has appeared in projects as diverse as American Psycho and the Sex and the City series, is on the verge of becoming a huge name in Hollywood. Theroux also co-wrote Tropic Thunder and Iron Man2, making him a bit of a wild card in the industry. Theroux should have become famous after his amazing performance in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., in which he plays a pretentious filmmaker, but unfortunately it did not happen. In Wanderlust, Theroux plays Seth as someone who takes himself and his lifestyle far too seriously, making him that much funnier to watch. Seth is the one who introduces the idea of open love to George and Linda and after fawning over Seth for most of their time at the house, Linda needs little convincing. If nothing else, Wanderlust is worth it just to watch Theroux’s shirtless, bearded hippie messiah.
The other memorable characters that inhabit Elysium include Eva (Malin Akerman), the most sexually free of the community; Karen (Kathryn Hahn), a former porn star whose hair-trigger rage is frightening; and Carvin (the brilliant Alan Alda), who originally founded Elysium with some friends back in the 1970s. Oh, and Wayne (Truglio), the nudist. There is a lot of him in the movie.
Wanderlust was co-written by Wain and Marino, longtime friends and writing partners. Their previous project, The Ten, was met with modest critical appreciation but was an honest attempt at experimental storytelling. Wanderlust is absolutely hilarious, both as a result of Wain and Marino’s writing and the fantastic performance by an incredibly talented cast. The movie is meant to be just a ridiculous comedy, but it actually points to many issues that people face every day. George and Linda want to live a certain life in New York because that’s how their friends live. Their willingness to ignore the tenuous financial position in which they will place themselves to attain that lifestyle barely registers in their thoughts. This is a prevalent issue today that has caused more than a few problems for Americans. In no way is Wanderlust intended to be seen as a social commentary. Nevertheless, it shines a bright light on some serious topics.
Wanderlust is by far one of the funniest movies of the last few years. Without a doubt it is worth a trip to the theater, but the few outtakes featured during the credits promise an even better experience when it is released on DVD.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”