Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Away We Go" is Lovely

The Gruntled family watched "Away We Go" last night, and enjoyed the whole thing. We saw it as a moral tale of two people who are deeply in love realizing that they need to get their lives in grownup order before their baby comes. He makes ridiculous jokes, she is indulgent and moves the family forward. He is delighted about the coming baby, and is sure they can work everything out. She worries in a perfectly plausible expectant-mother way. The core story seemed, to us, very familiar.

The shape of the movie is a road trip to see where they might want to live and to bring up their child. With both sets of parents out of the picture, and with flexible jobs, they can move anywhere. All the friends and relatives they spend time with are, of course, quirky (this is an indie movie). Each family has a different frailty of family life that is instructive to the central couple. The Gruntleds found the send-up of the New Age faculty family especially hilarious.

In the end, they come round right.

I then read the extensive comments on the IMDB message boards. I was surprised at the strong negative reactions of a whole strand of commentators. There are threads of sociology, too, as some people try to figure out what kind of people liked the movie, and what kind hated it. The main theory seemed to be that young hipsters would like it and others would not. I don't qualify as young or hip.

I think "Away We Go" appeals to people who like the moral quest to transform themselves to do right by a baby. The real appeal to me is that the central couple have a just sense of proportion about how big a challenge raising a baby is, and how wonderful.


SPWeston said...

In the trailers for the movie, the Dad-to-be seemed to have a Peter-Pan, won't-grow-up, planning-to-be-incompetent streak.

One of the things I liked about the full movie was that he seemed instead to be a a person competent at a set of things and trying to figure out how to get competent at something further. I thought he was pitch perfect as a good guy working out how to put his strengths where she needed them.

Also, the main characters were developed in a way that made sense of them moving from teens to adults to parents. At one level, you could see wit and quirks and vulnerabilities and relationships that they'd had for a long time. At another level, you could tell they'd steadily been figuring out work and responsibility and ways to live together and with other relatives. That process is never an overnight change from one species to another: it's something slower and with more continuity, so that you can still see your child-self in the mirror and your friends still recognize you after years apart.

Unknown said...

I find it interesting and sociologically rich that someone would theorize that young hipsters would like this movie. There seems to be a trend toward marriage and parenthood in hipsters that I don't readily recognize in the past (although I'm open to examples to the contrary). Hipsters in the past, seem to me to have been loners of sorts, always unattached of the burdens that come with families. It's only within the new millennium that I have seen hipsters move towards this middle class norm. One of the hip, up and coming neighborhoods in Louisville is Germantown, which is primarily made up of family-friendly homes which are primarily inhabited by families. I recently read a book called "Alternadad" by Neal Pollack, who writes about balancing his previous life as an unabashed hipster and his new role of father. Searching Amazon, I found a plethora of books (and even a DIY zine) on the same subject.

I have two ideas to forward for discussion as to why this is occurring now. First, I think that the age of the internet has allowed hipsters to retain both their freedom (both in terms of time and physical placement) and a respectable middle-class income in far greater numbers than has been possible in the past. This ties in to the growing "knowledge class". Second, I think present-day hipsters have reacted against the divorce culture of the previous generation because they have seen first-hand the adverse effects of divorce. I would theorize that many of the anti-social (and I don't necessarily use that term in a negative context) traits evident in hipsters may be the result of parental divorce.


Gruntled said...

I think the basic explanation is simpler: when men and women make a baby, the normal thing is for them to want to get married and try to be good parents. This is hard, and many people freak out. But it is a normal impulse, even for hipsters.