Wednesday, November 23, 2005

 

Going Home for Thanksgiving

Today is the day before Thanksgiving Day, so, the movie on my mind is the only one, of which I know, to take place entirely on this day -- Planes, Trains & Automobiles. The film -- written and directed by John Hughes, and starring Steve Martin and John Candy -- is inspired by what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year -- a day, when it seems, primal urges for us to return to our clan is the strongest. And so, people travel from far and near on this day to spend a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends -- in essence, to reconnect with their tribe. That's what we find Neal Page (Martin) and Del Griffith (Candy) doing in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Or so we think. Page, we're certain, is desperately trying to get to his family. Griffith -- the obnoxious shower ring salesman with whom he is saddled, after his flight is canceled -- no longer has a family. For most of the film, we don't know this. But when this information is revealed, the broad (at times slapstick) comedy is injected with a bit of pathos and becomes considerably more somber. Like the song says, "there's no place like home for the holidays," and this film confirms that -- whether it's your own family for whom you will do anything to see again, or a new family who, adopts you on this day, and makes you feel at home. Planes, Trains & Automobiles is not without the excesses that mar all of Hughes comedies in the 80s (from Sixteen Candles to Home Alone), but it has a good heart, and recognizes the primal urge this day manifests.

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