NEW YORK — There's something about a pregnant belly that invites hands — you know, unsolicited, typically strange hands palming it like a basketball.
But in the movie Away We Go, which opens Friday, a different, arguably more alarming body part gets intimate with Maya Rudolph's swollen stomach: Catherine O'Hara's ear.
Rudolph plays thirtysomething, six-months-pregnant Verona; O'Hara is Gloria, the mom of Verona's boyfriend, Burt (John Krasinski). After Burt's parents announce they're moving out of Colorado, where the entire gang lives — and after Gloria gives her future grandchild a good listen — away Burt and Verona go on a journey to find a new hometown in which to start their family.
Verona experiences life as an accidental "billboard for pregnancy," as the ex-Saturday Night Live star puts it. And an unwanted ear is just one of her problems.
There are the airline employees who don't believe Verona is only six months pregnant, not eight, and refuse to let her fly. There are those who tell Verona her face looks fat. And there's Burt's childhood friend ("cousin") LN, formerly known as Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who nurses her children through preschool, promotes "continuum" living (no separation, sugar or strollers for her kids) and insists that she, not Verona's obstetrician, knows the true sex of Verona's baby.
Many of the eye-rolling elements of pregnancy were familiar to Rudolph, 36, mom to Pearl, 3, and another due this fall. The movie, written by parents (and literary heavyweights) Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and directed by parent (and Hollywood heavyweight) Sam Mendes, covers the tricky terrain of second and third trimesters "so well," she says.
"It's about people's feeling of wanting to be connected," says Rudolph, who, sitting in the Mercer Hotel lobby in Soho, is only just beginning to show. "It just doesn't come out the way it's supposed to: 'Oh, God, you're huge.' I think the last person who wants to hear they're huge is a pregnant lady."
Although the ear-to-belly contact is extreme, "I used to get the hands," she says, demonstrating. "This weird hand just coming at me." And, living in Los Angeles, she's quite familiar with "crunchy judge-y" LN types. "By the way, they don't go away when you have a baby: 'What kind of diapers are you using? You're not using gDiapers?!' " (the flushable, compostable brand Julia Roberts recommends).
Away We Go's humor is far subtler than the slapstick we saw Rudolph revel in for seven years on SNL, as, say, the blond-wigged, baritone-voiced Donatella Versace and Bronx Beat's gum-smacking co-host Jodi Deitz.
In fact, Rudolph had to turn on the tears in the film. "It was hard because I felt a lot of pressure. I knew that the emotions were there and I understood the character, and I really wanted to cry. But there were a lot of cameras in the room and there were people waiting, and it was really hard and I was trying to, like, literally squeeze them out of my eyeballs." Some "weird goo, probably like Karo syrup or something," helped. "I had to ramp it up." And then, floodgates.
Her big goal, however, was to avoid an "ugly cry": "open mouth, flared nostrils, 'Waaah!' That's not cute."
A "pretty cry," however, "is like Demi Moore in Ghost. I mean, that's like a perfect cry."
Source: USA TODAY.