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Sometimes we all have an urge to just get away from it all. We stare at our cubicle walls or our geometry textbooks or our piles of dirty dishes, and we collectively think to ourselves, "How did those dirty dishes get stacked up at such an improbable angle in my cubicle?! And we begin to imagine an existence in which life's more mundane realities have been scrubbed clean: A life where we are at one with God and nature, at peace with ourselves and free to play the banjo whenever we want.
It's at this point that I usually remember I don't know how to play the banjo, and I'm reminded by my editor that I have a movie review to write—a movie review, ironically, about two people who tried to get away from it all.
Proud New Yorkers George and Linda possess an overpriced apartment, several smartphones and the knowledge that they're living in the most exciting city in the world. But when George loses his job and Linda's new documentary about cancer-ridden penguins is turned down by HBO, the yuppish couple must contemplate a serious lifestyle change.
They decide to relocate to Atlanta, where George's brother, Rick, has offered him a job, a place to stay and a chance to hear his constant patter of crass putdowns. But on the way down, they stop for the night at the Elysium Bed and Breakfast—just to get a little shuteye before the final push to their new, undesirable home.
Alas, shuteye is hard to come by here, what with all the singing and dancing and pot smoking and skinny-dipping going on. Turns out, Elysium isn't just a B&B: It's an "intentional community," according to its spiritual leader Seth. Members stay away from the term commune, because it conjures up too many images of, you know, folks singing, dancing, smoking pot and skinny-dipping.
George and Linda dive right in, and after a night filled with song and laughter, they begin to wonder whether Elysium has the right idea after all. "Why shouldn't we feel [happy] every day?" George asks Linda.
But can true happiness really be found in a place that doesn't have doors, but does have horses roaming the halls?
Produced by Judd Apatow—the mischievous mind behind such movies as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad—Wanderlust has all of his typical hallmarks: drugs, profanity, nudity and a mountain of lewd behavior. But there's one more thing Apatow's (sometimes grudgingly) known for, and that's in here too: a heart behind all the ick, and even a strangely conservative soul.
The folks at Elysium practice "free love" (read: wanton sex). But it's against the canvas of debauchery that George and Linda learn monogamy is where it's at. Through their misadventures, they rediscover their love for, and commitment to, each other, and that's pretty nice to see. They eventually reject the obtusely unhealthy behavior they see at both Elysium and Rick's house.
Setting aside their immoral choices for a moment, I can also compliment the rest of the folks at Elysium. Because through them we witness a tight-knit, accepting community—a place where people appreciate you for who you are and always seem glad to see you. Free love as a sexual obsession is obviously bad. But real, brotherly love that's also free? We see that here too.
Elysium (the name refers to an ancient Greek concept of heaven) is a quasi-spiritual community, and its inhabitants appear to engage in some sort of loose nature worship. "Mother Earth is the only leader we need," Seth says. He sleeps outside, and when Linda asks him what he does when it rains, Seth says, "I take in the nourishment that god gives us through her cloud teats." We learn he made a god's eye during the "last Kwanza." The commune sometimes participates in ritualistic "truth circles" augmented by hallucinogenic drugs.
On their way down to Atlanta, George and Linda listen to the Doobie Brothers' version of "Jesus Is Just Alright."
George and Linda are as loving as they are overworked. In New York, we see them start to make out in their new apartment before both of them suddenly fall asleep, George on top of Linda. Elysium "revives" their sexual fervor: We see them smooch in bed before the scene cuts to the next morning when they're apparently naked under the sheets.
Elysium also, as mentioned, introduces the idea of "free love." George is tempted by pretty commune member Eva. And Linda goes a whole lot further than that with Seth. (Their coupling happens offscreen.) George is shocked and horrified when he finds out. And Linda tries to equalize things by pushing George into Eva's arms. George psychs himself up with a seemingly endless string of vulgar come-ons he says to himself in front of a mirror—but Eva ends up rejecting him. Another commune member then tries to seduce George, and he in turn is repelled. Thus, the movie suggests that George stays (at least technically) true to Linda.
Later, when Linda rebuffs Seth's continued ambitions with her, he tries to have sex with her without touching her … making a series of suggestive noises as he does so.
The commune is home to Wayne, a nudist winemaker/novelist who hosts a convention for fellow wine nudists. We see him and them naked from all angles. Wayne is seen wearing a bit of something over his privates when he's stomping grapes (in an effort to keep his pubic hair out of the wine). Several women, including Linda, strip off their shirts as a form of protest. (Their bare breasts are pixelated in the ensuing television coverage.) A woman's nipples are obvious through her shirt.
A woman laments that her pregnancy may make her less desirable. Her primary lover reassures her, saying that it's bound to make her breasts bigger (using a crass term).
Rick cheats on his wife, prompting her to ask for a divorce. "I have sex with other women because I love you so much!" Rick pleads. Marissa tells Linda she has a sex toy that Linda's welcome to use. Rick utters a variety of incredibly crass, lewd and obscene jokes and seems to come on to Linda. Others make a slew of sexual references and engage in explicit conversations. One commune-ist was apparently in the porn industry (and cracks an exceedingly foul joke about his business). Seth sings a suggestive song to Linda.
In addition to free love, Elysium takes pride in being a nonviolent community—so much so that members don't even clap, rubbing their fingers and thumbs together as a less violent way to show appreciation. And when George swats a fly, his new neighbors are horrified. But when George decides to take his wife back home, Seth decides to fight: He struggles with George over the wheel of an SUV (through a sunroof). After the vehicle crashes into a lake, George rescues Seth—only to have the other man begin to slap him in the face for his efforts. "I wish there was something we could do [to stop Seth], but we're not violent!" a commune onlooker exclaims. The rest of the members begin chanting instead. Linda is the only one to take action, putting Seth in a headlock.
Linda pitches a depressing nature documentary to HBO. "We are raping these animals and then we are murdering them," she narrates on the doc. HBO officials order her to stop just as a man onscreen looks like he's about to hit a penguin; an exec says the show's so depressing she's considering slitting her wrists.
George gets hit by a taxi. George and Linda crash their car. Rick and George break dishes in anger.
Crude or Profane Language
About 35 f-words and 20 s-words. "A‑‑," "b‑‑tard" and "h‑‑‑" also get a workout. Scads of worthless words are used to describe various sexual body parts (including at least a dozen uses of "d‑‑k"). God's name is misused more than 25 times (including a half-dozen linked with "d‑‑n"). Jesus' name is abused four or five times. We see a hoisted middle finger.
Drug and Alcohol Content
George, Linda and Elysium residents use a variety of drugs, including marijuana and some sort of psychotropic substance. We see the affects of that latter drug through Linda's hallucinating eyes, and watch as she stands on a tree limb claiming she can fly. George and Linda both reference sleeping pills.
Marissa seems to be in a constant state of semi-inebriation: She and Linda down margaritas and mimosas. We see people drink beer and wine.
Other Negative Elements
Someone mentions that her menstrual cycle restarted, even though her uterus is in a jar. The pregnant woman gives birth on the porch, the camera watching intently as the baby drops from her (mostly covered) crouching body. Plans are made to make soup for the commune out of the placenta—and we see it still attached to the 1-day-old baby by the umbilical cord.
George accidentally smears animal feces on his forehead. While he's on the toilet (we see him from the side), a guy and a girl come to talk with him. Linda squats down in the woods to use the bathroom, then rubs her behind with leaves.
Rick makes several racist remarks.
Judd Apatow and Role Models director David Wain seem to be lampooning much of the filth they showcase here. When Linda suggests to HBO that she could try to have polar bears flash their breasts for the camera—and the execs say that's the kind of documentary the network could get behind—it's a clear swipe at HBO's penchant for gratuitous nudity. And when Linda flashes her own breasts to snag some TV news coverage for a protest, it's at least a partial indictment of sensationalistic media coverage. If I wanted to stretch the point, I might argue that all the horrendous depictions of sexuality we see here are, in a way, an effort to illustrate the beauty and logic of monogamous marriage.
But you can't have it both ways. You can't credibly mock a TV channel for being saturated with sex and scandalous behavior when that same sex and scandalous behavior are the only reasons many of your own fans will opt to see your latest flick. It's akin to riffing on the evils of killing farm animals as you chow down on a bacon cheeseburger, or complaining about the lottery as you plug a slot machine with quarters. It just doesn't make much sense.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Paul Rudd as George; Jennifer Aniston as Linda; Justin Theroux as Seth; Alan Alda as Carvin; Malin Akerman as Eva; Ken Marino as Rick; Joe Lo Truglio as Wayne; Michaela Watkins as Marissa
David Wain ( Role Models)
February 24, 2012
June 19, 2012