wander_blog.jpg
Gemma La Mana/Universal
Aniston and Rudd meet the hippies (led by the bearded Theroux).
The Dinner : Kobe burger, at McCormick & Schmick's (1103 First

"/>

Jennifer Aniston's Hippie Hook-Up (Secret Meat Edition)

wander_blog.jpg
Gemma La Mana/Universal
Aniston and Rudd meet the hippies (led by the bearded Theroux).
The Dinner: Kobe burger, at McCormick & Schmick's (1103 First Ave.).

The Movie: Wanderlust, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: How long could you survive in a commune? How long could you survive in a commune without bathroom doors? How long could you survive in a commune that practices free love? How long could you survive in a commune without meat?!? Those are some of the questions facing the exiled Manhattan yuppies played by Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and I daresay that the food issues--i.e., enforced veganism--may be more critical than the privacy or sex...

Though it arrives in Hollywood's traditional winter dumping grounds (and on the Oscar weekend, no less), Wanderlust is a conventional but better-than-expected comedy that snaps Aniston's string of box-office losers that dates back to ... when exactly? The Good Girl back in 2002? Office Space in 1999? It's hard to keep track. Too often cast in conventional rom-coms, or as the princess in need of humbling, she's actually more effective in a raunchy, R-rated setting. (See the recent and not-so-horrible Horrible Bosses.) And certainly she's found the right colleagues in those members of the old comedy troupe The State, who surround her and co-star Rudd with some very nutty, nudist aggro-humor.

Written by David Wain (who directs) and Ken Marino (who plays Rudd's oafish brother), Wanderlust rides the tsunami of the global financial crisis out of NYC to rural Georgia. Rudd's George is a banker whose boss is led off in handcuffs. Suddenly unemployed, he and his artistic dabbler of a wife, Linda (Aniston), can no longer afford their tiny West Village "mini loft" (sold to them by pricelessly deadpan broker Linda Lavin). Unlike the yuppie duo of Albert Brooks' Lost in America back in 1985, who elected to drop out (albeit in a 'Bago), George and Linda are the semi-smug sort of childless urbanites who have never really chosen anything. They've allowed their lives to be shaped by Design Within Reach catalogs and The New York Times' Styles section. Taking refuge at the Atlanta mini-mansion of George's horrid brother Rick, these two realize how alienated they are from ordinary American suburbia. In a sense, the hothouse of Manhattan has made them into selfish freaks; and now they need a new tribe.

Yet before we reach Elysium, the commune that runs a bed-and-breakfast that George and Linda accidentally discover, let's decide where to eat after the movie. Do we want hippie vegan cuisine or the yuppie grub that our heroes will soon forsake? Well, call me shallow, but lentils and tofu are a taste that one can endure for only about two weeks (this being the amount of time before George and Linda see a different side to Elysium). Also, purely vegan and organic restaurants are hard to find downtown, near Pacific Place. And one of Wanderlust's funnier scenes finds two fugitive members from the commune meeting at a roadside diner to feast on forbidden meat. Or, put differently, I felt like a burger, and McCormick & Schmick's is convenient and open late.

But back to George and Linda, before they tire of black beans and wheatgrass. Though owned by an older hippie (Alan Alda), its ur-hippie is the muscular, bearded Seth (Justin Theroux) who enters the movie wearing a sheep and "smells like walnuts and suede." The newcomers are both smitten. He's a charismatic, Zen-spouting, yoga-practicing leader; and we know that charisma extended off the set, too, since Theroux and Aniston became a tabloid item soon after filming. Thus, the movie gains a little more chuckling than it perhaps strictly deserves, since we're always looking for secret cues of onscreen attraction. Aniston watches him doing shirtless yoga. He serenades her with a lusty, improvised tune ("I'm gonna love you like an animal..."). And inevitably when the free love plot kicks in ("Don't fight the sexual chi"), their characters are drawn together.

Granted, none of Wanderlust is particularly original. (City-slickers have been getting their comeuppance on the farm since the silent era.) But the cast inhabits their roles with gusto. It must be admitted that Theroux is both hunky and humorous: He's got a little bit of that Harrison Ford quality, the handsome guy making light of his own heroism. Rudd is reliably funny, his presence signaling that, yes, Judd Apatow is among the movie's producers. And Aniston is surprisingly game to look foolish (including one memorable acid trip). But the movie really belongs to the supporting players, some from the State (whose Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black appear alongside director Wain as obnoxious TV hosts). In particular, you could almost see a television spin-off with Kerri Kenney-Silver, Kathryn Hahn ("If I wanted my face covered in lies, I'd still be working in porn!"), and Lauren Ambrose as the women of Elysium, since the movie is essentially an R-rated sitcom already.

And like any good TV show, Wanderlust doesn't overstay its welcome. Briskly edited, it marches toward a predictable but satisfying conclusion, one that leaves George and Linda in a slightly better place than where they began. Do they entirely reject their materialistic, meat-eating way of life? I won't give away the ending but will say, instead, they'd like the Kobe burger ($14.95) at McCormick & Schmick's, washed down with a pint of Manny's. It's not a meal with a lot of soul or integrity to it. It comes courtesy of a large restaurant chain. And the ambiance is sorely lacking in the sort of didgeridoo music and scent of patchouli that Wanderlust gently lampoons. To the movie's credit, it doesn't simply ridicule the communards because, George and Linda discover, their lives are more ridiculous. But they'd probably also agree that it's nicer to enjoy your burger without livestock wandering through the restaurant, since it actually has doors, unlike Elysium.

 
comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow