Wanderlust looks like your typical fish-out-of-water comedy. George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are a young married couple in Manhattan who've just bought their first apartment, a miniscule studio they can barely afford. Then George loses his job in finance as the recession hits. Linda hardly earns an income as a creative dabbler, so the couple decides to move in with George's brother in Atlanta. After a long night of driving, they stop at a bed and breakfast called Elysium, and surprise! It's a commune. They leave the next day, but ultimately decide to go back and bliss out.
An hour of jokes involving hippies and nudists ensues.
Life at Elysium is gravy — fair-trade, vegan, equally-shared gravy. But George finds it difficult to settle into commune life. Meanwhile, Linda drinks the Kool-Aid. She's all about the drum circles and denim cut-offs and other stereotypes of hippiedom. When Elysium's leader, Seth (Justin Theroux), starts making the moves on Linda, George really wants to go back to reality. The trouble is, he doesn't have an alternative to this alternative life. Because here's the one thing about Wanderlust that most rang true to me: In NYC, it's really hard to manage a job hunt when you don't already have a job.
The more Linda settles into life at Elysium, the more she drifts away from George. At one point, the two even discuss whether to open their marriage in accordance with the commune's free-love practices. Then George gets a lead on a job, and Linda isn't so sure she wants to go back to a normal life. Which is kind of what brought them there in the first place: Linda's not really into the normal way of doing things. She's chosen a life of short-lived creative dabbling over a regular job. Luckily for her, George has always supported her endeavors by taking on all of the financial burden. But as a result, he's made himself miserable at a job he hated.
When times are good, George overlooks the inequity. But as the fallen breadwinner, it's apparent to him that Linda wants to make decisions without contributing the same amount. When they fight, George expresses his frustration, asking, "Do you know how hard it is being married to someone who hasn't chosen her major?"
As silly as Wanderlust is, it brings up a good point. Maybe "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health" is the easy part of being married. Dealing with how your partner changes — or in some cases, doesn't change — is the real challenge. I think that money is the root of George and Linda's relationship problems, but it's not necessarily because they don't have any. It's because they have very different relationships with it. George feels like he's failing if he can't bring it in, but Linda will make do with whatever George does or doesn't have.
You'll have to see Wanderlust in theaters now to find out if the couple can agree to disagree. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your experiences of relationship changes, whether they involve finances and values or not. How much can we expect our partners to change over time, and how do we know when they've changed too much?