Everything is shared in the commune, a concept George initially finds charming when he admires another guy’s shirt and the man whips it off and gives it to him. Payback comes when the other resident insists on borrowing George’s car, and promptly drives it into a pond. What’s the big deal, man? It’s only a possession. It happens to be a possession George urgently needs to get to a job interview.
George is tempted by the free-love spirit of the place when a sexy blonde (Malin Akerman) offers him no-strings attached sex, but when he talks his wife into accepting such an arrangement, she immediately sleeps with Seth. Jealousy doesn’t seem like such a groovy feeling, and being unused to the art of seduction George messes up his opportunity with the hot blonde by talking too much while trying to be sexy. Moreover, the supposedly anti-materialist, money-disdaining Seth turns out to be eager to sell out everyone on the commune for his own individual benefit, and the hippie co-founder played by Alda isn’t actually a vegan – every week he sneaks off to the local greasy spoon to stuff himself with ham and sausage.
The turning point of the movie arrives when George, visiting his brother again, discovers the underlying reason why his sister-in-law is so unhappy — infidelity. She has known for years that Rick has been cheating on her, and the information has made her depressed and despairing. George suddenly understands that infidelity, whether you call it “free love” or not, destroys relationships, and by the end of the movie he and Linda are back in a monogamous marriage in their own private living space, with their own private property, solidly middle-class jobs and solid walls to shut out other people. Forty-something years after Easy Rider ushered in an age of countercultural movies, Hollywood rarely produces a work as counter-countercultural as Wanderlust.