Movie review: Wanderlust

Spoiler alert.

Ayesha Abdul Razzak August 19, 2012

Wanderlust is a funny sort of movie. By ‘funny’ I don’t mean the kind of film that would have you laughing out loud and sharing jokes with friends for weeks to come. Its humour, if that’s what we can call it, lies mostly in poking fun at the anachronisms of 1960s-style hippies and the situations that arise when a ‘modern’ couple find themselves in their midst.

It’s not really a new formula, nor does Wanderlust add any new twists to what is pretty much a ‘been there, done that’ genre. Starring Jennifer Aniston as Linda Gergenblatt and Paul Rudd as her husband George, the film begins with this somewhat dysfunctional couple investing in a studio apartment in the West Village. But then the economy turns around and bites them right in the bank account and the newly unemployed couple have to relocate. It’s on this ‘journey’ that they come across a commune of vegan, free-love practicing, latter-day flower children. Down on their luck, Linda and George decide to give living on the commune a shot, with entirely predictable results.

Alan Alda, in his role as Carvin, the somewhat disillusioned founder of this community, is the real treat to watch. Well known for his role in the classic TV series M.A.S.H, Alda seems to have aged considerably and makes you wonder if he will be acting for much longer. Then there’s the commune’s de facto leader Seth (Justin Thearoux), and Eva (Malin Ackerman) — here becoming the proverbial Eve tempting Paul to surrender to the siren song of commune life. While the cast members have defined roles that should have given them the opportunity to deliver great performances, all of them seriously disappoint. The jokes are sporadic, stale, strange and at times completely disgusting.

Even though this movie is labelled a comedy, the comedic timing is completely off, and the jokes seem so obscure as to be incomprehensible. It’s as if director David Wain was enjoying his own co-written script so much that he failed to yell cut.

In the role of George, Rudd is loud and obnoxious and changes his mind so often and without any real justification that it is very hard to feel any sympathy for either his character or his situation. Aniston, as Linda, is another mystery — the biggest being why such an experienced comic actress would pick such a weak role. Linda is shown to be a person who changes careers every other month, which explains her temporary fascination for the hippie lifestyle but it does not explain exchanges like this one:

Seth: “You know you can really get trapped in that web of beepers and Zenith televisions and Walkmens and discmens and floppy discs and zip drives, laser discs, answering machines and Nintendo Power Glove...”

Linda: “Wow, you know so much about technology.”

I am sure there is a joke somewhere in there but I just can’t seem to find it. And yes, the rest of the humour, when it’s not rolling around in the toilet, is in much the same vein. Wanderlust takes a good cast and forces them to crack jokes that can barely be described as juvenile, making what could have been a hilarious farce into terrible, hopeless parody.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 19th, 2012.

-clad women covered in black overalls is teased by a monkey, a goat and a dog, all belonging to a gypsy performer on the boat. Equally irritated by the unwanted animal advances are Hindu women in multi-coloured saris and over-sized crimson bindis, returning from a visit to the temple. Children from a large family giggle at the predicament of both sets of women, while our amused smiles are returned by sheepish glances from the troubled ladies.


Like the gypsy’s signature patchwork bag, Manora’s diversity is reminiscent of Karachi’s multicultural past — and all that is sadly in stark contrast with its increasingly monochromatic present.

This piece was originally submitted for the British Council’s creative writing competition.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 19th, 2012.