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Wanderlust

Wanderlust

You bunch of filthy hippies, who aren't really that filthy,
or hippies, for that matter

dir: David Wain

Goddamn hippies. You would think, from this flick and flicks like it, that hippies are worthy of more contempt and loathing than almost every other classification, subculture or type of human in this world. A village full of kiddie fiddlers and hedge fund managers doesn’t rival the awesome awfulness of a bunch of hippies, apparently.

At least to Americans, I guess. Whether they’re contemptible wretches worthy of that contempt or not (all of them, not just some of them or most of them, every single fucking one of them!) is not of tremendous relevance. It’s not as if this flick is going to change any opinions about anything along the way, or raise awareness or anything. That’s not its purpose. The flick isn’t even interested in characters, or characters coming to terms with things, or overcoming things, or anything like that. No flick about hippies that has Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in lead roles is interested in achieving anything so bold, any so radical.

As much as I like Paul Rudd, if there’s another actor who varies less between roles I haven’t had the honour of discovering him yet. And Aniston, well, if there’s an actress with even less range, science hasn’t discovered her yet.

So casting them here as a yuppie couple who fall upon hard times is the kind of decision a Microsoft program could have come up with unaided: “They’re Bland Enough and Up for Whatever!” the poster could scream.

These feckless New Yorkers get suckered into buying a studio apartment, complete with fold-up murphy bed and chipboard panelling, now, at this time in human history, where the words Global Financial Crisis are dripping from everyone’s tongues the way that Twitter, social networking and Vajazzle are too. With equal frequency.

Anyway, the wonderful key couple have no financial security to weather the storms on the horizon. No earning power. The female of this horrifying couple, being Jennifer Aniston, playing Jennifer Aniston, makes depressing documentaries about penguins with testicular cancer, and tries to sell them to HBO. HBO, rightly, passes, since no-one wants to watch that, but then she suggests to the shithead executives at HBO that if she could film the penguins vamping out and biting each other and having bondage-flavoured sex then the premium cable channel would probably snap it up, to which they agree.

Yes, David Wain and co, I hate True Blood too.

When their money dries up and they have to sell the bedsit, George (Paul Rudd, but it’s just Paul Rudd, why do they bother with character names?) decides for some reason that the only place in America that will take them is Atlanta, Georgia, where his repugnant brother (Ken Marino) lives. His brother is so hateful, so boorish, so wonderful. He has that knack of saying anything, doing anything no matter how banal and harmless, and turning it into something offensive and creepy.

You know who you people are out there that he’s imitating. I’m begging you, on humanity’s behalf, please stop it, it’s awfulness on a genocidal level.

As they drive and drive and drive, desperation for a place to sleep leads them to Elysium, a place that looks like a bed and breakfast. Wouldn’t you know it, the place is infested with hippies living some kind of alternative life.

No-one’s really expecting nuanced, balanced, multi-dimensional portrayals here, are they? What kind of sick person would expect something so clearly beyond the limits of human imagination? The people in this “intentional community” (they disdain the label ‘commune’) are every cliché you have ever seen, not imagined, because imagination plays no part in any of this.

So there’s the lifestyle, and those that live it, and you’d think square New Yorkers wouldn’t have the inclination or the disposition for the alternative organic life, but they have no alternative to the alternative, and George and Linda somehow get seduced by the idyllic time they spend there, smoking dope, laughing, crying, hugging and being lectured by self-righteous smug arseholes like Seth (Justin Theroux), who’s everything you ever wanted in a hippie or a cult leader. To see him in operation is to want to side with the National Guard at Kent State who killed those hippie students, or to wish the entire 1960s could have temporally been nuked from space.

He oils and oozes his way around the place, and especially around Jennifer Aniston. Poor Jennifer Aniston, having to put up with the illicit attentions of this guy, both in real life and in this flick. Oh, yeah, wait, Justin Theroux’s just playing a character, I forgot. Anyway, Elysium is a place, as you’d think the name would imply, that values free love and a door-free existence, so it appears that not only are there no obstacles to entry or exit in any of the rooms of the house, there are also, eventually, no barriers to entry or exit on Jennifer Aniston either.

This is not a comedy to take seriously. Not a person watching this flick, except maybe for actual hippies, is going to walk away from this flick thinking any trenchant thoughts or remembering anything of value. All they’re going to remember is if they laughed or not, and if they’re anything like me, and more’s the pity if they are, then they laughed a lot.

It’s a ‘stupid’ flick with not a single worthwhile character, but I laughed my arse off. I laughed often and laughed loudly, with my own face aching from having laughed so much at some points. I couldn’t even tell you what those funny bits were. No, I wasn’t stoned when I watched this, I think it just did really well at what it set out to do.

The gentlemen behind this flick, being people like the director, and Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and the rest, people who were involved with a comedy program called Stella, or The State, are people who’ve been trying to get paid for being funny for a long time, with only moderate success. Wain has jumped to feature films, which covers him nicely, I guess, but he throws pity work to the other former friends / collaborators whenever he can. The scenes, cameos really, where the Michaels are on an Atlanta infotainment essentially sexually harassing the hell out of one of the female hosts made me laugh, out loud, but they are queasy, and nausea-inducing.

I’m struggling, yet again, to relate any the stuff that made me laugh, but let me just say it’s more the comic sensibility that the people manage to engender rather than anything to do with the scenario or the actual plot (if something so deliberately hackneyed can even be called a plot). It’s a bundle, a stack, a clusterfuck of clichés and tropes that have been outdated for decades, but it doesn’t matter because it produces comedy gold. Naked guy always walking around naked? Surely something is going to get waved in someone’s face in the morning. Privacy concerns arising from people with no boundaries or sense of personal space? Of course someone taking a shit is going to have a whole host of people walking in.

George feeling desire for a frighteningly Swedish blonde woman (Malin Ackerman)? Of course George will find a way to fuck things up. Hippie elder (Alan Alda) with a mind fried by Timothy Leary’s wonder drug? Of course he’s going to repeat the same rambles continuously. I cared less, ultimately, about who did what and what, and more about whether it made me laugh, and it did. Rudd plays straight squares yelling at people for not being as square or normal as he would like in his sleep, with great ease, so there are plenty of opportunities for him to wring laughs out of the material with his righteous indignation.

And Aniston is Aniston, and will never change.

I laughed. That’s the important thing, and I laughed a fair bit, so surely Wanderlust was a success?

Goddamn hippies. They ruin everything they touch.

7 times I think the smell in the place must have been something extraordinary, so let’s be grateful for the lack of Smell-O-Vision out of 10

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“You’re taking my infidelity and making it all about you.” – it’s always me, me, me with you, isn’t it - Wanderlust

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