Movies are a way for us to live out our dreams and fears, and everything in between, without the consequences that would inevitably occur in real life. We can live vicariously through the characters we follow, and they, in turn, can say the things we wish we could say and do the things we can only dream of. This is why movies, no matter how outlandish, must have a central character that the audience finds relatable, someone they can see themselves in. The new film Wanderlust has such a protagonist, in fact it has two, and they are played to perfection by Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, who are indispensable at the crux of the film. This couple is suffering through something many of us are experiencing. They can’t find work, and the work they can find is unfulfilling and passionless. They also can’t pay their bills, namely their exorbitant new mortgage. This wanton search solely for money leaves them without the most important thing we can possibly have, simple happiness. As Alan Alda’s senile, weathered hippie proclaims, “Money buys nothing.” And while that is not literally true, as Paul Rudd’s character points out endlessly, Alda is not entirely wrong.
So we relate to the struggles of Rudd and Aniston and we feel their pain. We understand it, which is why the movie can be so unpleasant at times. Because once our two leads begin to encounter a foray of eclectic individuals, who are utterly inconsiderate, annoying, and downright odd, the audience can’t help but be uncomfortable or unnerved, or both. As our characters become increasingly bothered by the characters surrounding them, so too are we. Take for example the arrogant, pompous, racially-insensitive brother who scolds and scours our protagonists with socially inappropriate unpleasantries every opportunity he gets. Or take the overweight, balding nudist with no sense of other people’s personal space. Or the soon-to-be-mother who gives birth to her baby with no assistance whatsoever, and then opts not to cut the umbilical cord and instead wait until it disintegrates. If you’re noticing a pattern here and these sound like quirky characters you’d like to witness for yourself, then I have got just the movie for you! However, if you are repulsed and incensed by the very mention of such unpleasant individuals, then you, much like the characters we are meant to relate to, will likely be repulsed and irritated by this cavalcade of oddities.
There is definitely an audience for a movie such as this. It’s brought to you by the same people that created Reno 911, and much like that show, there are moments of inventive comedic bliss, that too often than not get overshadowed by a plethora of peculiar instances that leave you scratching your head, and sometimes even a little queasy.
In fact, the main attraction of Wanderlust may be witnessing the beginning of the budding real-life romance between Jennifer Aniston and her new beau, Justin Theroux. The moment they meet onscreen you can practically feel the chemistry, something Aniston lacks with Rudd. They weave that chemistry well into the movie creating a budding romance between Aniston and Theroux’s two fictional characters, which leaves you wondering if the on-screen sparks are for real or are the performances just that good.