I had such high hopes for Wanderlust, the comedy by director David Wain, starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. After sitting through the film however, I can’t for the life of me remember what they were.
Low flying New York couple Linda and George (Aniston and Rudd), find their less than high powered lives collapse, as they are lumbered with a mortgage on a new apartment which they can no longer afford after they both loose their jobs. Deciding to leave the city, they go to stay with George’s brother and his family until they can get themselves together. After a long day’s drive they stop for the night at a guest house run by an alternative lifestyle commune led by the charismatic hippie Seth (Theroux). Though initially shocked, Linda and George become increasingly attracted by the free love approach of the commune’s ‘family’, eventually reaching the point where they are forced to take drastic, life-changing action with comic results.
During the mid 1990’s Jennifer Aniston had the world at her feet. As a star of the hit television comedy Friends she, along with her fellow cast members, could do no wrong. Jump forward twenty years. The show is now a fond yet distant memory, and the cast members have had varying degrees of success adjusting to life outside the safety of their sitcom family. It would appear that the most successful has been Aniston who has seldom been out of the headlines for the past two decades, whether for her private or professional life – neither of which has exactly set the world alight. Unfortunately her latest offering, the slightly (ok, let’s be honest here, very) lewd, adult themed comedy Wanderlust, is unlikely to have much affect on the current status quo.
There’s nothing wrong with it per se – apart from the apparent modern misconception that an overdose of crude innuendo can take the place of anything even half approaching sophisticated humour. When analysed the laughs here are really on a level with those of the British Carry On films from the 1960’s and 1970’s. However where that series’ picture postcard approach to racy innuendo took it to the, just, acceptable limit , modern films (and in particular the spate of bawdy and laddish movies currently emerging from Hollywood) seem not to know when to stop.
Wanderlust is admittedly funny, in actual fact some of the situations like the one where Rudd finds himself with an unwelcome audience when trying to spend some private time in the bathroom is pant-wettingly (if toe-curlingly) so. It is also more than competently produced, from the beautiful setting of the alternative lifestyle commune in the wilds of rural America, to the excellent casting of Alan Alda as Carvin, the retreats founding father, and the nymphlike Malin Akerman as the alluring and provocative Eva who tests Rudd’s faithfulness to the limit. In addition it could also be read as a timely social satire against the current worldwide malaise of consumerism, which initially makes Linda and George’s lives such a misery, before they turn their backs upon it as members of the communes big ‘happy family’.
However when it boils down to it, there is nothing really very memorable about what is in fact no more than a harmless but ultimately forgettable way to pass ninety odd minutes. The truth is that Aniston, and the rest of the cast, could do this with their eyes closed. Other than the fact it gave her the opportunity to work alongside her soon-to-be, real-life husband Theroux, whose character is a thoroughly obnoxious love rat (let’s hope for Jen’s sake that life doesn’t imitate art), the film is unlikely to do much to forward her career or scope as an actress.
Unfortunately Wanderlust as a whole is a pretty accurate summation of the way Anniston’s career has turned out post Friends – generally innocuous though spiced with intermittent inspiration.