Wanderlust belongs to a mini-genre of self-exploration comedies, wherein a seemingly grounded, urbane couple takes a road trip into the backwoods of utter lunacy. Its spiritual predecessors are cult classics such as Lost in America, Funny Farm and Flirting with Disaster, and in its best moments, Wanderlust is every bit as hysterical, cynical and weird as those gems.
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are married Manhattan yuppies, crammed into an expensive West Village “micro loft” so tiny that the bed folds into the wall. They are equally constrained by their mutually failing careers; she makes depressing, unsellable documentaries about penguins suffering with cancer, and he toils at a financial firm about to be shut down by the feds. Feeling trapped, they bolt for the prospect of a blissful new life and a steady paycheck in suburban Atlanta, where George’s obnoxious brother (Ken Marino) owns a Porta-John business. On the way, after a long, bickering road trip, they stop for the night at what looks like an idyllic country B&B, but in truth is a beyond-freewheeling, neo-hippie commune called “Elysium.” The joint is run by the mildly messianic Seth (Justin Theroux) and his yoga-fit, blond goddess girlfriend Eva (Malin Akerman), and they are surrounded by a host of oddballs and social misfits, played by a terrific comedic support cast. The ever-graceful Alan Alda is on hand as the farm’s grayed acid casualty, who has continual flashbacks to the farm’s early ’70s founding. Other freaks include nurturing, pregnant earth mommy “Almond” (Lauren Ambrose), psychotically horny Karen (Kathryn Hahn) and Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), a nudist winemaker who, spends his downtime penning a fatuous, doorstop-sized allegorical novel about D.C corruption.
This collective is really big on sharing; there are no doors, even in the bathroom, and totally free sexual expression is strongly encouraged. Much drug abuse, tofu consumption, nudity, partner-swapping and other chaos ensues, and our “normal” couples are pushed to the brink. Funny as most of this is, there are snags. The much-hyped Aniston “topless” scene is an empty marketing tease, and her chemistry with off-screen, tabloid bait boyfriend Theroux is hindered by his intensely sleazy, tweaked-out character.
Some gags are overplayed, and some are beaten deep into the earth, with the “wacky factor” sometimes threatens to overwhelm the truly inspired bits. That sort of spottiness has long plagued the comedy hive formerly known as The State; most of whom appear here; core members Marino and David Wain share writing credits. Yet the script is likely secondary with this much improv talent on hand, as evidenced by Rudd’s long, hysterically dirty monologue into a mirror, as he psyches himself up for an extramarital adventure. I can’t wait for the mountain of DVD outtakes.
Wanderlust may not be your cup of psychotropic tea; I found it to be engaging, amusing, and often achingly, gut-wrenchingly funny. Your results may vary; one man’s deliciously crafted poop joke is another’s cringe-inducer.