It’s not entirely sarcastic to suggest that this is Jennifer Aniston’s greatest performance. Those who always thought she was pretty vacant and wondered why the rest of the world considered her so eminently watchable might have missed her self-conscious smirk, it turns out, because something in this weirdly improvisational film, a kind of Lost in America on acid from cult director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer), makes her absolutely shimmer with hallucinogenic glee. As Paul Rudd’s foundering, materialistic wife, she seems to simultaneously be the butt of the whole joke and enjoy it, too.
Wanderlust is quirky, funny, and ultimately really weird. We follow Linda (Aniston) and Paul (George) after they abandon East Coast upward mobility for downsized Atlanta. They move in with George’s jerk of a brother Rick (Ken Marino, who cowrote) and his hilariously repressed wife, Marissa (Michaela Watkins in near-subliminal mode), and ultimately winding up in a daffy commune run by ego-tripping Seth, played monumentally sleazy by Justin Theroux. But the film’s true magic lies in its constant willingness to break from story into ridiculous skits — from sexist idiot local newscasters to an uncomfortably bizarre sequence in which Rudd gives himself a crass pre-sex pep talk. In fact, you will likely remember only the wackier moments, which include a nudist novelist, a group truth session followed by an ayahuasca-induced freak-out, and Alan Alda as a memory-impaired former hippie.
The film has zero redeeming social value and even its satire targets seem a little odd. (Neither hippies or corporate marauders feel exactly like cutting-edge topics at this late date.) But Wain’s last few films, including the under-appreciated Role Models, are happily maverick in an age of genre recycling. Wanderlust also features this great new comic actress named Jennifer Aniston. Maybe we should pay attention to whatever crazy thing she might do next.
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