Wednesday, July 1, 2015
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
(November 1987, U.S.)
Okay, people, let's talk turkey in July! Like JAWS on July 4th, like HALLOWEEN on Halloween and like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on Christmas Eve, John Hughes' PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (an unexpected diversion from high school tales in the 1980s) has for many, including myself, become an annual holiday movie watching tradition prior to the Thanksgiving holiday! Not so much because it's represents whatever bullshit stories we were repeatedly told as kids by our teachers (and the Charlie Brown TV special) about the Pilgrims arriving to the New World on the Mayflower, meeting friendly Indians and indulging in the first great American feast, but rather something a little more down to Earth for many of us - the sheer hell of holiday travel during those precious few days before the big turkey Thursday! I haven't traveled for Thanksgiving for thirteen years (thank goodness!) and if I have any control over my life, I never will again! Holiday travel is bad enough, but throw in the prospect of doing it with a fat, annoying, chatterbox bastard like John Candy (R.I.P.) and you have all the makings of suicidal and homicidal temptations right then and there. Just look at poor Steve Martin's face on the movie poster and it's all clearly outlined.
As a viewing tradition, I tend to watch this bittersweet farce on the Tuesday night before the big holiday for no other reason that in the film, that's the day when Neal Page's (Martin) long journey commences right out of New York City. From the moment things begin, Neal is under the deluded impression that he'll simply jump into a cab during New York City rush hour traffic, make it to JFK Airport in plenty of time, get on the plane, go to sleep , travel unmolested straight to Chicago and be home with his family no later than 9 pm that same evening. Okay, everybody say it real loud with me...WRONG!!! Those of us who live in or near a populated urban city know that such thoughts are impossible on an average day, let alone during a holiday week. Neal's flight delay is likely a blessing in disguise at first considering he barely makes it to the airport in time. Once on the plane, though, the trouble starts immediately when he's mistakenly bumped from first class to (UUGH!!!) coach and is seated next to Del Griffith (Candy), a man who, despite all of his kind and friendly intentions, simply will not shut his fucking mouth! Add to that his idea that removing his shoes and stinky socks on a plane is an acceptable notion and you have here your ultimate human traveling nightmare!
But let me digress for a moment by saying that I've never had to deal with a strange chatterbox traveling companion because from the moment I sit down on a plane, train, bus, whatever, I immediately put on my headphones and dive deep into a book, making it blatantly clear to anyone with the wrong idea that I'm not available for any sort of friendly chitchat! I don't do it to be mean. I do it because if I don't know you, then I don't want to know you (sorry, but I just had to get that out!)!
Bad weather conditions force the Chicago-bound plane to land elsewhere, and despite Neal's better judgment, he agrees to hook himself up with Del, thinking that perhaps his new-found traveling companion may be of resourceful use in helping him to get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Several cheap hotel rooms and several broken down modes of transportation later, Neal and Page are still together, getting on each other's last nerve, and still managing to appreciate and respect each other along the way, while joyously cracking up as their viewers. Of course - even the best of crazy comedies will offer the morals of human decency, respect and friendship in the end, right? I mean, what sort of holiday, good-will-toward-men message would this film be sending if Neal and Del still hated each other's guts in the end?? Admittedly, though, a man like John Candy, despite whatever obnoxious role he played on screen, always managed to be irresistibly lovable as the story went on. How can you not want to just wrap your arms around this pudgy bastard and give him a great, big hug after all the troubles of holiday travel have come and gone and we can all look back on them with laughter? In the end, as we'd expect, everybody's happy to be home surrounded by family and what inevitably constitutes the best damn meal of the entire year!
Just to share some of my own personal feelings now, I must say that Thanksgiving has always been and continues to be my favorite holiday of the year. Whether my family chooses to host the big day at our home or if we hit the local expressway and drive to one of our relatives, it's always a great day for family and scrumptious food! Though my family always slices up the turkey and serves it and all the other goodies buffet style in the kitchen. That's all fine and good, but just ONCE I'd like to experience that classic Norman Rockwell image of the great, big turkey being served all juicy and golden brown in the middle of the big dining table! And then there's also the small array of classic monster movies I enjoy watching every year at Thanksgiving (see my original post for the original 1933 version of KING KONG to know what I'm talking about). It's how I make the holiday special for myself and I personal tradition I continue to carry on with year after year.
See you in November!
Favorite line or dialogue
Car Rental Agent (annoyingly cheerful): "Welcome to Marathon. May I help you?"
Neal Page: "Yes."
Car Rental Agent: "How may I help you?"
Neal: "You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosey, fucking, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile. A fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!"
Car Rental Agent: "I really don't care for the way you're speaking to me."
Neal: "And I really don't care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn't fucking there! And I really didn't care to fucking walk, down a fucking highway, and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face! I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!"
Car Rental Agent: "May I see your rental agreement?"
Neal: "I threw it away!"
Car Rental Agent: "Oh, boy."
Neal: "Oh boy, what?"
Car Rental Agent: "You're fucked!"