Reporting Eric Henderson
When you think of great cinematic mirror monologues, inevitably you flash back on Travis Bickle demanding, “You talkin’ to me?” Right?
Robert De Niro’s terrifying internal dialogue with himself in Taxi Driver has been, up to now, the incontestable winner in an admittedly narrow field.
But if there’s any justice in the world, the prolonged pillow talk practice run Paul Rudd reels off for what feels like eight excruciatingly awkward hours in the new comedy Wanderlust will someday have everyone asking, “You talkin’ to who?”
Wanderlust comes from director David Wain and co-screenwriter Ken Marino, the same team largely responsible for Wet Hot American Summer (my vote for the funniest cult comedy since Y2K) and, more recently, Adult Swim’s riotous 11-minute comedy series Children’s Hospital (which, if you haven’t checked it out yet, you must).
Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play George and Linda, a couple who are trying to make a (presumably second or third) go at living the boho dream of living large professionally but small in their hipster studio apartment in the Village. Both are starting to feel the pangs of “too old for this.”
When their fragile, stunted careers evaporate simultaneously, they hike down to Atlanta to live with George’s monstrous brother Rick (Marino), a self-made portable toilet mogul who talks exactly the same substance as his vocation.
Along the way, though, they stumble upon a touchy-feely commune headed up by Seth (Justin Theroux), a frosted flake with a granola physique, and Carvin (Alan Alda), barely-living proof that you can in fact drop too much acid.
The targets of Wain and Marino’s satire here (corporate greed vs. hippie self-involvement) are cheap, and the entire movie feels a great deal more domesticated and even-tempered than the manic highs of American Summer.
But thanks to the chops of their incredible ensemble — which includes, among others, quite a few members of their old gang from The State — Wanderlust scores more than a few effortless laughs.
And, in the case of Rudd’s mirror monologue psyching himself up to take the plunge into the commune’s free love mentality, one chokingly funny but painfully effortful one.